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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
Last updated: 01 Sep 2021