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Reasonable Adjustments

What are reasonable adjustments and what is an employer's duty?

Reasonable adjustments remove or minimise disadvantages experienced by disabled people. Employers should ensure policies and practices do not put disabled people at a disadvantage.

When must an employer make reasonable adjustments?

An employer must consider making reasonable adjustments and involve the disabled worker or successful job applicant in the discussion about what can be done to support them and the decision if;

  • it becomes aware of their disability;

  • it could reasonably be expected to know they have a disability;

  • if the person asks for adjustments;

  • if the worker is having difficulty, problems or concerns with any part of their job, or;

  • if either the worker’s sickness record, or any delay in their return to work, is or can be linked to their disability

What does reasonable mean?

What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of each individual case and will depend on an assessment of factors including: Is the adjustment practical to make?, does the employer have the resources to pay for it?, will the adjustment be effective in overcoming or reducing the disadvantage in the workplace? and will the adjustment have an adverse impact on the health and safety of others?

The size of the employers business can be a factor as can whether the employer has access to other funding, such as the governments access to work scheme. An employment tribunal may expect more from a large organisation than a small one because it may have greater means.

An employer is not required to change the basic nature of a job and if there are times when suggested adjustments are unreasonable, an employer could lawfully refuse to make them.

What reasonable adjustments need to be made?

In assessing what reasonable adjustments need to be made, the three main questions an employer should consider are:

1. Does the employer need to change how things are done including work practices or policies?

2. Does the employer need to physically change the workplace?

3. Does the employer need to provide extra equipment or get someone to assist the disabled worker or job applicant in some way?

What might a reasonable adjustment look like?

Many adjustments will be simple and inexpensive. Some examples may include a special chair because of back problems, a special keyboard because of arthritis, a ramp for a wheelchair user, changing working hours or patterns of work, a phased return after sick leave, a designated car park space or even modifying performance targets. Employers should remember the aim of an adjustment is to take away or minimise the disadvantage because of the persons disability so they can do their job or apply for one.

How can a worker request a reasonable adjustment?

Workers should bear in mind that an employer only has to make reasonable adjustments for a worker when it is aware, or could be expected to know, they have a disability. If unsure a worker should ask to talk to their manager about the matter. A meeting can provide a worker with the opportunity to explain the situation more clearly and suggest possible adjustments. It will help the employer understand how best they can support and help the worker. It is likely to be beneficial to have an agreed outcome confirmed in writing.

Making reasonable adjustments for job applicants

As standard practice an employer should ask all job applicants whether they need any reasonable adjustments for any part of the recruitment process. An employer must make reasonable adjustments to the recruitment process if:

  • the job applicant has indicated a disability in their application, or told the employer they have a disability;

  • the employer at any point becomes aware of the disability, and;

  • the applicant asks for reasonable adjustments.

Employers should be acutely aware this is not the same as asking an applicant if they are disabled which they shouldn't do as asking could inadvertently imply potential discrimination Before offering a job, the employer must only ask a disabled applicant what reasonable adjustments are needed:

  • for and during any part of the recruitment process and once those are in place whether they are suitable and/or;

  • to determine whether the applicant could carry out a function essential to the role with the reasonable adjustments in place.

Only after offering the job should an employer ask the successful applicant what adjustments they need to do the job and progress at work.

Failure to make reasonable adjustments

An employer failing to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled job applicant or worker is one of the most common types of disability discrimination If a worker or job applicant feels they have been discriminated against they can make a claim of disability discrimination to an employment tribunal.

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