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 flag icon

      Great Britain

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.

Use a return to work risk assessment as an opportunity to consider and monitor reasonable adjustments that can be made for disabled employees to work safely.

There are three reasonable adjustment requirements:

1. Changing the way things are done, such as general policies

Examples include:

  • an employer has not been able to prevent customer contact altogether and understands an employee with depression and anxiety in a customer-facing role is experiencing increased levels of anxiety – they are redeployed into a non-customer facing role with the employee’s agreement
  • an employer asked managers to provide more frequent check-ins or phone calls with staff struggling with their mental health during lockdowns– the employer explores a longer-term support plan for the employee physical workplaces reopen
  • an employer decides to ask an employee if they want to change or swap roles because COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on them due to their disability or health condition – 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

Examples include:

  • during social distancing measures, an employee who is a wheelchair-user is relocated to a temporary office – the employer has a ramp installed to make the temporary office accessible

3. Providing extra equipment or services to help a disabled employee do their job

Examples include:

  • an employee who needs voice activated software is now required to use their own laptop when working from home under a hybrid working model – the employer pays for the software to be installed
  • an auxiliary aid or service is provided to assist employees to do their job or for candidates to participate in an interview or selection process
  • an employer provides a Deaf worker’s colleagues with clear face masks or face shields so that the employee can still lip read when colleagues are talking to them

Returning to work

Employers should continue to monitor any changes in government guidance and consider the implications. Employers who have offices across England, Scotland and Wales must be mindful that the legal requirements regarding COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines may vary across the nations. When making plans to return to UK wide offices, employers must consider the restrictions in each nation and adapt accordingly before applying a blanket policy.

In addition, as COVID-19 restrictions relax and physical workplaces reopen, employees may have concerns about returning to the office, particularly those who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, for example disabled employees. Employers should therefore:

  • consider implementing models of hybrid working and consulting with staff to mitigate concerns
  • continue to ensure statutory sick pay is applied for those required to self-isolate

Employers are legally required to make reasonable adjustments

The requirement to make reasonable adjustments did not change during the pandemic and continues to apply as restrictions relax. A reasonable adjustment could constitute allowing a disabled employee to continue work from home if this has found to be successful during lockdowns and the employee is nervous about returning to the physical workplace because their safety is at greater risk, for example, if they haven’t had the vaccine for medical reasons.

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

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: 01 Sep 2021

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

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

Also available through the website are BSL interpretation, web chat services and a contact us form.


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closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays

Alternatively, you can visit our advice and guidance page.