Reasonable adjustments in practice
Examples of steps it might be reasonable for an employer to have to take include:
- Making adjustments to premises.
An employer makes structural or other physical changes such as widening a doorway, providing a ramp or moving furniture for a wheelchair user; relocates light switches, door handles, or shelves for someone who has difficulty in reaching; or provides appropriate contrast in decor to help the safe mobility of a visually impaired person.
- Allocating some of your duties to another person.
An employer reallocates minor or subsidiary duties to another worker as a disabled worker has difficulty doing them because of their disability. For example, the job involves occasionally going onto the open roof of a building but the employer transfers this work away from a worker whose disability involves severe vertigo.
- Transferring you to fill an existing vacancy.
An employer should consider whether a suitable alternative post is available for a worker who becomes disabled (or whose disability worsens), where no reasonable adjustment would enable the worker to continue doing the current job. This might also involve retraining or other reasonable adjustments such as equipment for the new post or a transfer to a position on a higher grade.
- Altering your hours of working or training.
An employer allows a disabled person to work flexible hours to enable them to have additional breaks to overcome fatigue arising from their disability. It could also include permitting part time working, or different working hours to avoid the need to travel in the rush hour if this is a problem related to an impairment. A phased return to work with a gradual build-up of hours might also be appropriate in some circumstances.
- Assigning you to a different place of work or training.
An employer relocates the work station of a newly disabled worker(who now uses a wheelchair) from an inaccessible third floor office to an accessible one on the ground floor. If the employer operates from more than one workplace, it may be reasonable to move the worker's place of work to other premises of the same employer if the first building is inaccessible and the other premises are not.
- Allowing you to be absent during working or training hours for rehabilitation, assessment or treatment.
An employer allows a disabled person who has recently developed a condition to have more time off work than would be allowed to non-disabled workers to enable them to have rehabilitation. A similar adjustment would be appropriate if a disability worsens or if a disabled worker needs occasional treatment anyway.
- Giving, or arranging for, training or mentoring (whether for you or for other people). This could be training in particular pieces of equipment which you will be using, or an alteration to the standard workplace training to reflect your particular impairment.
All workers are trained in the use of a particular machine but an employer provides slightly different or longer training for an employee with restricted hand or arm movements, or training in additional software for a visually impaired person so that they can use a computer with speech output
An employer provides training for workers on conducting meetings in a way that enables a Deaf staff member to participate effectively
A disabled person returns to work after a six-month period of absence due to a stroke. Their employer pays for them to see a work mentor, and allows time off to see the mentor, to help with their loss of confidence following the onset of their disability.
- Acquiring or modifying equipment.
An employer might have to provide special equipment (such as an adapted keyboard for someone with arthritis or a large screen for a visually impaired person), an adapted telephone for someone with a hearing impairment, or other modified equipment for disabled workers (such as longer handles on a machine).
The employer does not have to provide or modify equipment for personal purposes unconnected with your job, such as providing a wheelchair if you need one in any event but do not have one. This is because in this situation the disadvantages you are facing do not flow from things your employer has control over.
- Modifying instructions or reference manuals.
The format of instructions and manuals might need to be modified for some disabled workers (such as being produced in Braille or on audio CD) and instructions for people with learning disabilities might need to be conveyed orally with individual demonstration or in Easy Read.
- Modifying procedures for testing or assessment.
A worker with restricted manual dexterity who was applying for promotion would be disadvantaged by a written test, so the employer gives that person an oral test instead.
- Providing a reader or interpreter.
An employer arranges for a colleague to read hard copy post to a worker with a visual impairment at particular times during the working day. Alternatively, the employer might hire a reader.
- Providing supervision or other support.
An employer provides a support worker or arranges help from a colleague, in appropriate circumstances, for someone whose disability leads to uncertainty or lack of confidence.
- Allowing you to take a period of disability leave.
A worker who has cancer needs to undergo treatment and rehabilitation. Their employer allows a period of disability leave and permits them to return to their job at the end of this period.
- Participating in supported employment schemes, such as Work step.
A person applies for a job as an office assistant after several years of not working because of depression. They have been participating in a supported employment scheme where they saw the job advertised. As a reasonable adjustment the person asks the employer to let them make private phone calls during the working day to a support worker at the scheme.
- Employing a support worker to assist a disabled worker.
An adviser with a visual impairment is sometimes required to make home visits to clients. The employer employs a support worker to assist them on these visits.
- Modifying disciplinary or grievance procedures.
A worker with a learning disability is allowed to take a friend (who does not work with them) to act as an advocate at a meeting with the person's employer about a grievance. Normally the employer allows workers to be accompanied only by work colleagues. The employer also makes sure that the meeting is conducted in a way that does not disadvantage or patronise the disabled worker.
- Adjusting redundancy selection criteria.
A worker with an autoimmune disease has taken several short periods of absence during the year because of the condition. When their employer is taking the absences into account as a criterion for selecting people for redundancy, they discount these periods of disability-related absence.
- Modifying performance-related pay arrangements.
A worker person who is paid purely on their output needs frequent short additional breaks during their working day – something their employer agrees to as a reasonable adjustment. It is likely to be a reasonable adjustment for their employer to pay them at an agreed rate (e.g. their average hourly rate) for these breaks.
- It may sometimes be necessary for an employer to take a combination of steps.
A woman who is blind is given a new job with her employer in an unfamiliar part of the building. The employer
arranges facilities for her assistance dog in the new area
arranges for her new instructions to be in Braille, and
provides disability equality training to all staff.
In some situations, a reasonable adjustment will not work without the co-operation of other workers. Your employer's other staff may therefore have an important role in helping make sure that a reasonable adjustment is carried out in practice. Your employer must make this happen. It is unlikely to be a valid 'defence' to a claim under equality law for a failure to make reasonable adjustments for an employer to argue that an adjustment was unreasonable because other staff were obstructive or unhelpful when the employer tried to make an adjustment happen. The employer would at least need to be able to show that they took all reasonable steps to try and resolve the problem of the attitude of their other staff.
An employer makes sure that a worker with autism has a structured working day as a reasonable adjustment. As part of the reasonable adjustment, it is the responsibility of the employer to make sure that other workers co-operate with this arrangement.
If you do not want your employer to involve other workers, the employer must not breach your confidentiality by telling them about your situation.
But if you are reluctant for other staff to know about your impairment, and your employer believes that a reasonable adjustment requires the co-operation of your colleagues, it may not be possible for the employer to make the adjustment unless you are prepared for some information to be shared. It does not have to be detailed information, just enough to explain to other staff what they need to do.
Last Updated: 29 Dec 2014