Finding out if someone is a disabled person

Multipage Guide

Who is this page for?

  • Employers

Which countries is it relevant to?

    • England flag icon


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    • Scotland flag icon


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    • Wales flag icon


What is reasonable?

You only have to make these changes where you know or could reasonably be expected to know that a worker is a disabled person and is - or is likely to be - at a substantial disadvantage as a result. This means doing everything you can reasonably be expected to do to find out.

For example:

A worker's performance has recently got worse and they have started being late for work. Previously they had a very good record of punctuality and performance. Rather than just telling them they must improve, their employer talks to them in private. This allows the employer to check whether the change in performance could be for a disability-related reason. The worker says that they are experiencing a recurrence of depression and are not sleeping well which is making them late. Together, the employer and the worker agree to change the worker's hours slightly while they are in this situation and that the worker can ask for help whenever they are finding it difficult to start or complete a task. These are reasonable adjustments.

This does not, however, mean asking intrusive questions or ones that violate someone's dignity. Think about privacy and confidentiality in what you ask and how you ask.

Good practice tip: be prepared for making reasonable adjustments

Equality law says that you must make reasonable adjustments if you know that a worker is a disabled person, that they need adjustments and that those adjustments are reasonable.

You don't have to put reasonable adjustments in place just in case one of your existing workers becomes a disabled person.

But you may want to be prepared:

  • Think in advance about what the core tasks of a particular job are and what adjustments might be possible (before starting a recruitment or promotion exercise, for example).
  • Put in place a process for working out reasonable adjustments in the event of an existing worker becoming disabled or a disabled person starting work with the organisation, before being faced with an individual situation.
  • Make sure you know in advance what support is available to disabled people from Access to Work.
  • If you are making renovations or alterations to your building, thinking about how you can make the new parts of your building more accessible for disabled people will help you if you later employ a disabled person and will allow you to attract more potential employees.

As well as avoiding a possible Employment Tribunal claim, being open to making reasonable adjustments means you may be able to avoid losing the skills of a worker who has become a disabled person just by making a few changes.

Last updated: 19 Feb 2019

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.


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.