As an employer, you have a duty and responsibility to make changes to ensure any staff with a disability do not feel at a disadvantage at work. Making a small reasonable adjustment can make a massive difference for an employee.
Failure to do so can lead to an employment tribunal, with a potential for damages to be paid.
In this guide, we will discuss what reasonable adjustments are, common examples and your responsibilities as an employer.
What are reasonable adjustments?
A reasonable adjustment is a change made by the employer to reduce any substantial disadvantage people with disabilities face. These can either be for a job applicant or a current employee when doing their job.
A reasonable adjustment can involve an employer making changes to the following:
- The workplace and services provided.
- Access to the building or premises.
- Changing the way information is given.
As an employer, you have a duty to protect all your employees from discrimination, this includes removing barriers disabled employees face at work.
To do this, it's crucial you understand common examples of changes you should be making for your employees.
Examples of reasonable adjustments in the workplace
What changes you make depends on the individual circumstances of each employee and which changes are relevant. Below are just some of the types of changes that can be made for staff with disabilities:
- providing auxiliary aids to a person with hearing difficulties to make it easier for them to do their job.
- making changes to the physical features of the premises, such as building wheelchair ramps.
- making changes to the physical features of someone's working desk, such as providing equipment to help with arthritis.
- holding job interviews on the ground floor for applicants who use a wheelchair.
- altering working hours to allow for medical appointments.
- allowing a gradual return to work for a person who has been absent on long-term sick leave.
To understand the importance of making changes to your workplace to help employees with disabilities you need to be aware of the legislation surrounding it.
Is a reasonable adjustment required under the Equality Act 2010?
The Equality Act 2010 is in place to protect disabled people in the UK. The act states there's a duty and legal requirement for employers to make changes if an employee is at a substantial disadvantage because of their disability compared to non-disabled people.
A substantial disadvantage means more than just a minor or trivial disadvantage that someone faces.
Disabled employees in Northern Ireland are protected by the Disability Discrimination Act.
Are reasonable adjustments required under the Disability Discrimination Act?
In Northern Ireland, the Disability Discrimination Act states employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to support staff with disabilities to carry out their jobs.
The Act can be found on the Northern Ireland Government website.
When do you have to consider reasonable adjustments for a disabled person?
Under UK law, there are certain circumstances where employers must think about providing changes to support anyone with disabilities:
- When they're made aware or are already aware of a job applicant or employee has a disability.
- When an employee or job applicant makes a request for an adjustment to be made.
- When a disabled employee is having difficulty with any part of their job.
Who pays for a reasonable adjustment?
In the UK, employers must cover the costs of reasonable adjustments made for a disabled person at work.
Most changes required are simple and affordable for many companies - but you shouldn't put yourself in financial difficulty for an unreasonable request. You are expected to support your staff where you can.
An Access to Work grant may be available to help a disabled person at work. This money can go towards any specialist equipment, travel expenses or the cost of a support worker. Although Access to Work will not pay for reasonable adjustments.
Are all disabled people eligible for reasonable adjustments?
Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for any staff who are at a substantial disadvantage due to their disability.
You must take any positive steps you can to support disabled people, and never underestimate the benefit it can bring to their working life.
Do employers always have to make changes?
Although an employer has a duty to make changes where required and cover the cost - they only need to make changes that are reasonable. If you're unsure whether or not you must make an adjustment, you should seek legal advice.
What happens if you do not make reasonable adjustments?
Failure to make an adjustment for a disabled employee counts as unlawful discrimination. Your employee can take you to an employment tribunal where you may be required to pay financial damages.
To ensure you minimise the risk of being taken to a tribunal - make sure you do everything you can to support your disabled staff.
Tips for getting adjustments right
It's vital you help any staff with disabilities. Below is good practice and guidance to ensure you reduce the risk of discriminating against your disabled workers.
Record all adjustments made
Keep an up-to-date record of any changes made to someone's job. This will help as evidence if you're taken to a tribunal for discrimination.
Ensure you record if you ever get the adjustments wrong, this will go a long way in it not happening again.
Create clear workplace policies
Implement clear policies in your workplace to support equality and ensure disabled workers receive the same benefits and access as non-disabled people.
These policies should outline how you'll support staff with a disability and make sure you bring them into practice.
Communicate with your employees
Communicate with your employees on a consistent basis about how you're making changes to support their working life. This will increase their confidence in you and form a strong working relationship.
By holding open dialogue with any disabled staff, you can fully understand the individual factors which will make their working life easier. For example, changing a physical feature, such as changes to entrances and exits, toilets or lighting, can make a huge difference to an employee.
Provide training and education
Provide new and existing staff with training and education on how discrimination can make people feel. Education can go a long way in changing people's attitudes.
You should also seek guidance on making any changes if you're unsure of how to make them correctly.
Get expert advice from Peninsula on reasonable adjustments
As an employer, you have a responsibility to ensure any staff with a disability receive the same benefits, access and experience from their working life.
It's against the law to not make changes to someone's job if they're disabled, and this could lead to them being discriminated against. The Equality Act 2010 protects all employees with a disability whilst at work.
Ensure you do all you can to make any disabled staff feel as comfortable as possible and take steps to make sure discrimination doesn't happen in your workplace.