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 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
- 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
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to share your stories.
Last updated: 24 Jun 2020