Reasonable Adjustments: An Employer’s Guide

By Amanda Beattie
18 Jul 2019

The Equality Act 2010 defines disability as any ‘long-term’ or ‘substantial’ physical or mental impairment that affects an individual's ability to carry out their normal daily activities.

Reasonable adjustments at work refer to alterations within the workplace or to work processes. The aim is to put your disabled employees on as equal footing as the rest of your able-bodied staff.

According to the Equality Act 2010, reasonable adjustments aren’t limited to the work itself. It could also be to the recruitment process or to policies relating to illnesses including mental health, absences and discipline.

In this piece, we’ll define reasonable adjustments and highlight some examples of it in the workplace. And finally, we'll explore the possible implications of failing to make these adjustments when necessary.


What is ‘reasonable adjustment’?

Reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 requires you to take appropriate steps to eliminate or minimise the disadvantages experienced by disabled employees. Adjustments will differ depending on the specific circumstance of the member of staff.

For example, what is a reasonable adjustment for an employee experiencing constant back problems? In this case, you can either provide that employee with a special back-supporting chair or change their working pattern to allow for more breaks.

Some other examples include:

  • Providing specialist equipment, including chairs and keyboards.
  • Allowing for flexible or remote working.
  • Reorganising tasks and responsibilities to account for an employee’s disability.
  • Reviewing working hours to allow for more breaks.
  • Changing aspects of the work environment, including lighting, desks, entrances and more.


Reasonable adjustments and recruitment

You’re required to make them where needed, even during the recruitment phase.

During this stage, you’re allowed to ask questions such as ‘do you require any reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process?’ if they have any disabilities that are likely to put them at a disadvantage compared to other applicants.

If they do, it’s your duty to make reasonable adjustments for their disability, including in relation to the application process and interview stages.

Reasonable adjustment examples at this stage include:

  • Providing access for wheelchair users when attending an interview. Alternatively, you can also make changes to the interview location for their convenience.
  • Adapting your assessment methods to account for certain disabilities. For example, an applicant with vision impairment may require the assessment in braille, while one with Asperger’s syndrome may require their assessment in a different format to better explain themselves.

It’s worth noting, you should consider consulting with job applicants about disabilities they may have and what special arrangements (if any) they’ll require to offer them the same opportunities as nondisabled applicants.


Failure to make reasonable adjustments

Under the Equality Act 2010, failing to comply with your statutory duty to make reasonable adjustments may result in claims of direct or indirect discrimination. If found to be in breach, compensation for discrimination is unlimited and is dependent on the employee losses.

There are various instances where employers have failed in their duty to make adjustments around the workplace or to work processes. When this occurs, they’re inevitably opening themselves up to claims of discrimination in an employment tribunal.

Employees or job applicants that experience discrimination can make a claim to an employment tribunal based on their disability. They should first consider having a conversation with their employer or HR consultant before escalating the case to an employment tribunal.


When is a reasonable adjustment not applicable?

The one constant with adjustments is they need to be reasonable.

While you can’t justify failure to make them, you can argue that adjustments were unreasonable.

You’re within your rights to refuse adjustments if you believe them to be unreasonable. However, if an employee decides to claim for discrimination, you're required to prove the adjustment requested was unreasonable.


Expert Advice

Have questions about reasonable adjustments? Speak to a Croner expert for any employment law issue today on 0808 145 3380.

About the Author

Amanda Beattie

Amanda represents corporate clients and large public bodies, including complex discrimination and whistleblowing claims. Amanda also drafts and delivers bespoke training regarding all aspects of employment law, including ‘mock tribunal’ events; in addition she also frequently drafts employment law articles for various publications for Croner and their clients.

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