Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for employers: Reasonable adjustments for employees

Advice and Guidance

Who is this page for?

  • Employers

Which countries is it relevant to?

    • Great Britain

Employers are facing unprecedented circumstances in responding to coronavirus (COVID-19). Our main guidance will help you understand your obligations as you make difficult decisions and support staff through these challenges.

This page offers quick reminders to help employers make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees or those with long-term health conditions.

When deciding whether it would be reasonable to make an adjustment, you must consider all of the relevant circumstances. These might include:

  • how effective the change will be to reduce or remove the disadvantage the disabled employee would experience
  • its practicality
  • the cost
  • your organisation's resources and size
  • the availability of financial support, such as the Access to Work scheme.

Your overall aim should be, as far as possible, to remove or reduce any substantial disadvantage faced by your disabled workers which would not be faced by a non-disabled worker.

Examples of reasonable adjustments

There are three reasonable adjustment requirements:

1. Changing the way things are done, such as your organisation’s general policies and practices.

Examples:

  • an employer has put in place various health and safety measures to protect its employers during the coronavirus pandemic, but has not been able to prevent customer contact altogether. The employer understands that an employee with depression and anxiety in a customer facing role is experiencing increased levels of anxiety as a result of customer contact and therefore redeploys them into a non-customer facing role with the employee’s agreement.
     
  • an employer may ask managers to provide more frequent check ins or phone calls with staff who may be struggling with their mental health.
     
  • an employer decides to ask an employee who is self-isolating because of their disability or health condition if they want to change or swap around roles. The employee agrees as they are not disadvantaged by the change in their roles or duties.

2. Changes to overcome barriers to the physical features of a workplace.

Example:

  • as a result of social distancing measures taken by an employer, an employee who is a wheelchair-user has to be relocated in a temporary office. The employer has a ramp installed to make the temporary office accessible.

3. Providing extra equipment to help the disabled employee do their job.

Example:

  • an employer decides all work can be done from home and allocates a specific budget for disabled workers to be able to order specialist equipment. An employee who would usually use voice activated software when working in the office is now required to use their own laptop when working from home. Their personal laptop does not have the necessary software, so the employer pays for it to be installed. This reasonable adjustment allows the employee to work from home safely and comfortably, minimising any additional disadvantages that may be faced by the employee now having to work in different circumstances.

What to do if you cannot make adjustments

In some circumstances, there may be no adjustments that can be made which would allow a disabled employee to remain in work while reducing the risk presented by coronavirus (COVID-19) to an acceptable level. Or it may not be reasonable in all the circumstances to make certain adjustments which would reduce the risk.

In those cases, you should consider whether it would be reasonable to offer to place the employee on paid disability leave or, if not, to furlough them until it is safe for them to return to work. Where possible, it is best practice to consider what the employee wants to do.

Please see our full guidance on reasonable adjustments for more ideas and detail on the law and your duties as an employer.

We are interested in hearing from employers and employees about good practice in managing non-discriminatory decision making processes during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Please contact workingforward@equalityhumanrights.com to share your stories.

More help

It is also your obligation to provide safe working conditions for your staff. For more information please look at the following organisations’ guidance:

Last updated: 07 May 2020

Further information

If you think you might have been treated unfairly and want further advice, you can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service.

Phone: 0808 800 0082
Textphone: 0808 800 0084

You can email using the contact form on the EASS website.

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Alternatively, you can visit our advice and guidance page.