What is a reasonable adjustment?

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace to ensure that disabled workers and job applicants are not substantially disadvantaged in carrying out their job role or applying for a vacancy.

The cause of any disability or the diagnosis given is not necessarily important when it comes to the provision of reasonable adjustments, where it is the effect of the ability on the worker or applicant to carry out everyday tasks that matters. It is therefore not possible to list a range of conditions that will always fall within the statutory definition of ‘disability’, as each case will depend on the effects and severity of the impairment.

By law, an employer must make reasonable adjustments in the workplace when:

  • They know, or could reasonably be expected to know, a worker or job applicant has a disability, and that the individual is substantially disadvantaged because of it
  • A worker or job applicant with a disability asks for adjustments to be made
  • A worker with a disability is having difficulty with any part of their job
  • A worker has complained about the impact of a particular rule, feature or lack of equipment or support to their line manager or senior management
  • A worker’s absence or sickness record, or any delay in returning to work, is because of or linked to their disability.

The duty to make reasonable workplace adjustments will only arise where the worker or applicant is likely to be at a substantial disadvantage in carrying out or applying for a job when compared with others.

There is no statutory definition of what is ‘reasonable’, where this will depend on the facts of each case, and there are factors that will usually be considered such as:

  • The nature and size of the employers’ undertaking
  • The extent of the financial and other resources available to the employer
  • The practicalities involved in making the adjustment
  • The potential effectiveness of any adjustments in removing or reducing the disadvantage suffered by the disabled worker or applicant when compared to a non-disabled person.

Common examples of reasonable adjustments for employers to consider include:

  • Arranging for an interview to take place on the ground floor for a wheelchair user
  • Providing an amplified phone for someone with a hearing impairment
  • Allowing a phased return to work for an employee with PTSD following long-term sick leave
  • Amending a worker’s duties to avoid strenuous manual tasks for someone no longer able to undertake heavy manual labour
  • Allowing different shift patterns for someone suffering with side effects from medication
  • Allowing regular breaks for someone with diabetes so they get the sufficient food or drink during the day
  • Giving additional time for someone with dyslexia to complete any written interview tests
  • Providing a mentor for someone with anxiety or depression

The responsibility is placed on the employer to show that the adjustments made are reasonable, where a small business may be unable to afford the same level of adjustments as a large company.

The law does not require employers to make adjustments that are unreasonable, for example, where the cost disproportionately outweighs the likely benefit, or where it is likely to cause significant disruption to the business, but it is still necessary to try to find other ways to support the disabled worker or applicant in removing or reducing any disadvantage.

If you have any concerns about this subject or require general advice, contact us at enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk.

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