Reasonable adjustments

The Government website reminds us that employers must make reasonable adjustments to make sure workers with disabilities, or physical or mental health conditions, aren't substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs.

This applies to all workers, including trainees, apprentices, contract workers and business partners. Reasonable adjustments include:

  • changing the recruitment process so a candidate can be considered for a job
  • doing things another way, such as allowing someone with social anxiety disorder to have their own desk instead of hot-desking
  • making physical changes to the workplace, like installing a ramp for a wheelchair user or an audio-visual fire alarm for a deaf person
  • letting a disabled person work somewhere else, such as on the ground floor for a wheelchair user
  • changing their equipment, for instance providing a special keyboard if they have arthritis
  • allowing employees who become disabled to make a phased return to work, including flexible hours or part-time working
  • offering employees training opportunities, recreation and refreshment facilities

But as HMRC recently discovered, the first thing that an employer must do when considering reasonable adjustments, is to make sure that their follow their own policy on the subject!

HMRC's occupational health team recommended that a reserved parking space near the building entrance be provided to an employee to accommodate her disability. HMRC's parking policy recognised that this could be a reasonable adjustment. A space was provided at one site but not at an alternative site when the employee's workplace changed. HMRC made adjustments to allow the employee to park near an entrance but did not give her a dedicated space. She argued that this was a failure to make reasonable adjustments and her claim was upheld.  An adjustment recommended by an employer's own policy is likely to be a reasonable adjustment and there would need to be a good reason to depart from it.   In this case, the policy had not been followed because the managers dealing with the employee were not aware of it which, unsurprisingly, was not a good reason to depart from the policy.

Employers should ensure that policies are regularly reviewed and that all relevant managers are regularly trained as to the content and implications of such policies.

To discuss this or any other employment related issue, contact us.

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