What is meant by reasonable

Your employer only has to do what is reasonable.

Various factors influence whether a particular adjustment is considered reasonable. The test of what is reasonable is ultimately an objective test and not simply a matter of what you or your employer may personally think is reasonable.  

When deciding whether an adjustment is reasonable an employer can consider:

  • how effective the change will be in avoiding the disadvantage you would otherwise experience
  • its practicality
  • the cost
  • their organisation’s resources and size
  • the availability of financial support.

Your employer's overall aim should be, as far as possible, to remove or reduce any substantial disadvantage faced by you as a worker which would not be faced by a non-disabled person.

Issues your employer can consider:

  • Employers are allowed to treat disabled people better or 'more favourably' than non-disabled people and sometimes this may be part of the solution. 
  • The adjustment must be effective in helping to remove or reduce any disadvantage you are facing. If it doesn't have any impact at all or only a very minor one, then there is no point.
  • In reality it may take several different adjustments to deal with that disadvantage but each change must contribute towards this.
  • The employer can consider whether an adjustment is practical. The easier an adjustment is, the more likely it is to be reasonable. However, just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it can’t also be reasonable. The employer needs to balance this against other factors. 
  • If an adjustment costs little or nothing and is not disruptive, it would be reasonable unless some other factor (such as impracticality or lack of effectiveness) made it unreasonable.
  • Your employer's size and resources are another factor. If an adjustment costs a significant amount, it is more likely to be reasonable for your employer to make it if your employer has substantial financial resources. Your employer's resources must be looked at across their whole organisation, not just for the branch or section where you are or would be working. This is an issue which the employer has to balance against the other factors.
  • In changing policies, criteria or practices, the employer does not have to change the basic nature of the job, where this would go beyond what is reasonable. 
  • What is reasonable in one situation may be different from what is reasonable in another situation.
  • If they are a larger rather than a smaller organisation, the employer is also more likely to have to make certain adjustments such as redeployment or flexible working patterns which may be easier for an organisation with more staff.
  • If advice or support is available, for example, from Access to Work or from another organisation (sometimes charities will help with costs of adjustments), then this is more likely to make the adjustment reasonable.
  • If making a particular adjustment would increase the risks to the health and safety of anybody, including yours, then the employer can consider this when making a decision about whether that particular adjustment or solution is reasonable. But the employer's decision must be based on a proper assessment of the potential health and safety risks. The employer should not make assumptions about risks which may face certain disabled workers.

If, taking of the relevant issues into account, an adjustment is reasonable, then the employer must make it happen.

If you do not agree with them about whether an adjustment is reasonable or not, in the end, only an Employment Tribunal can decide this. You can read more about what to do if you believe you've been discriminated against in avoiding direct and indirect discrimination . This includes if an employer has failed to make what you believe are reasonable adjustments to remove barriers you are facing.

Providing information in an alternative format

Equality law says that where providing information is involved, the steps which it is reasonable for the employer to take include steps to make sure that the information is provided in an accessible format.

For example:

A manual worker asks for the health and safety rules to be read onto an audio CD and given to them. This is likely to be a reasonable adjustment that the employer must make.

More information

Last Updated: 18 Dec 2014