What do we mean by reasonable?

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  • Employers

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What is reasonable?

You only have to do what is reasonable.

Various factors influence whether a particular adjustment is considered reasonable.  The test of what is reasonable is ultimately an objective test and not simply a matter of what you may personally think is reasonable. 

When deciding whether an adjustment is reasonable you can consider: 

  • how effective the change will be in avoiding the disadvantage the disabled worker would otherwise experience
  • its practicality
  • the cost
  • your organisation’s resources and size
  • the availability of financial support.

Your overall aim should be, as far as possible, to remove or reduce any disadvantage faced by a disabled worker.

Issues to consider

  • You can treat disabled people better or 'more favourably' than non-disabled people and sometimes this may be part of the solution. 
  • The adjustment must be effective in helping to remove or reduce any disadvantage the disabled worker is facing. If it doesn't have any impact then there is no point.
  • In reality it may take several different adjustments to deal with that disadvantage but each change must contribute towards this.
  • You can consider whether an adjustment is practical. The easier an adjustment is, the more likely it is to be reasonable. However, just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it can’t also be reasonable. You need to balance this against other factors. 
  • If an adjustment costs little or nothing and is not disruptive, it would be reasonable unless some other factor (such as impracticality or lack of effectiveness) made it unreasonable.
  • Your size and resources are another factor. If an adjustment costs a significant amount, it is more likely to be reasonable for you to make it if you have substantial financial resources. Your resources must be looked at across your whole organisation, not just for the branch or section where the disabled person is or would be working. This is an issue which you have to balance against the other factors.
  • In changing policies, criteria or practices, you do not have to change the basic nature of the job, where this would go beyond what is reasonable. 
  • What is reasonable in one situation may be different from what is reasonable in another situation, such as where someone is already working for you and faces losing their job without an adjustment, or where someone is a job applicant. Where someone is already working for you, or about to start a long-term job with you, you would probably be expected to make more permanent changes (and, if necessary, spend more money) than you would to make adjustments for someone who is attending a job interview for an hour.
  • If you are a larger rather than a smaller employer you are also more likely to have to make certain adjustments such as redeployment or flexible working patterns which may be easier for an organisation with more staff.
  • If advice or support is available, for example, from Access to Work or from another organisation (sometimes charities will help with costs of adjustments), then this is more likely to make the adjustment reasonable.
  • If making a particular adjustment would increase the risks to the health and safety of anybody, including the disabled worker concerned, then you can consider this when making a decision about whether that particular adjustment or solution is reasonable. But your decision must be based on a proper assessment of the potential health and safety risks.  You should not make assumptions about risks which may face certain disabled workers.

If, taking all of the relevant issues into account, an adjustment is reasonable then you must make it happen.

If there is a disagreement about whether an adjustment is reasonable or not, in the end, only an Employment Tribunal can decide this.

Providing information in an alternative format

Equality law says that where providing information is involved, the steps which it is reasonable for the employer to take include steps to make sure that the information is provided in an accessible format.

For example:

A manual worker asks for the health and safety rules to be read onto an audio CD and given to them. This is likely to be a reasonable adjustment that the employer must make. 

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
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.


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Alternatively, you can visit our advice and guidance page.