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

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 asks managers to provide more frequent check-ins or phone calls with staff struggling with their mental health - the employer explores a longer-term support plan for the employee while the physical workplace remains closed
     
  • 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 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

Examples include:

  • as a result of 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 to help the 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 - the employer pays for the software to be installed
     
  • an employer reserves a car parking space for a disabled employee to allow them to travel to work without using public transport - the employee is at less risk of being unable to socially distance on public transport and can get to work safely

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.

Returning to work

Employers should monitor any changes in government guidance and consider the implications. For example, an employer should give priority to those required to shield when deciding who remains on furlough. If the furlough scheme ends but the employee is still required to shield, then employers should consider:

  • making reasonable adjustments, such as working from home or changing a role
  • placing the employee on disability leave
  • whether sick leave and company or statutory sick pay are applicable

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: 24 Jun 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.

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

Post:
FREEPOST
EASS HELPLINE
FPN6521

Opening hours:

9am to 7pm Monday to Friday
10am to 2pm Saturday
closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays

Alternatively, you can visit our advice and guidance page.