Failure to make reasonable adjustments and making complaints

This information applies to England and Wales.

Anyone can ask for adjustments if they need them.

You will need to:

  • talk about how your condition affects you
  • be clear on what you need

If asking does not work, complaining can be the most effective way to get what you want.

People who are defined as 'disabled' under the Equality Act have the right to reasonable adjustments.

Definition of disability under Equality Act 2010 (GOV.UK)

It is very common for employers to request an occupational health assessment to understand what reasonable adjustments you require.

You have the right to see the recommendations and amend the document before it goes to your employer.

If an employer does not follow this advice, you will have reason to complain.

If you are refused adjustments

Ask why. If you disagree, you could negotiate to get what you need. You could:

  • explain why you believe the adjustments would not cause problems
  • suggest ways to reduce the impact of the changes
  • ask if alternative adjustments might be possible

If that does not work, you must follow the local complaints procedure. This may include:

At work

Try talking with your manager first.

If that does not work, mention the lack of an adjustment in writing.

Keep copies of requests as evidence if you have to take a more formal approach later.

If your employer rejects adjustments

Informal complaints

Complaints can be the quickest way to get the support you need.

If you can, start by talking with the person who is not supporting you. This could be a line manager who is not providing papers in an accessible format or a colleague who is ignoring you.


  • how your condition or impairment affects you and what you need
  • how they can help

Formal complaints

Making a formal complaint to an employer, education or service provider may help you reach an agreement and avoid going to court.

For employment and education, this might include mediation with the employer or local authority.

Formal complaints at work

If you are an employee complaining about someone at work, you will need to talk to your manager or someone else senior. You may need to raise a formal grievance.

If your employer rejects adjustments

Formal complaints to companies and public services

You can look up the company on Resolver, which is a free complaints tool that provides templates and helps you to track your complaint.

Search for the company on Resolver

Submit your complaint. Usually, this will be online.

Taking a complaint further

If making a written formal complaint does not work, find out if there is someone else you can appeal to. How this works will vary in different types of organisation, for example:

Your rights

To have legal rights to reasonable adjustments, you will need to be defined as 'disabled' under the Equality Act. This usually means sharing how your condition affects you, not what your condition is.

Legally, an employer, education or service provider only has a duty to make reasonable adjustments when you are at a 'substantial disadvantage' compared to people who are not disabled.

Check if you're disabled under the Equality Act (Citizens Advice)

Not making reasonable adjustments is discrimination.

Discrimination in private and public services

What discrimination is covered by law

To have a legal right to an adjustment, it must be considered 'reasonable'. There is no set definition of 'reasonable' in the Equality Act. It depends on several factors, but most importantly the disadvantage you are placed in.

An adjustment can be physical, such as a ramp or hearing loop. Or it can mean changing the way people behave towards you, such as colleagues not covering their mouths when they are speaking if you lip read. Many adjustments cost very little and can have benefits for everyone. For example:

  • giving people who find noisy shopping environments difficult the chance to browse 30 minutes before a shop opens
  • autism-friendly cinema screenings
  • an employer offering flexible working

Employers and people providing services or education should consider all disabled people's requests for adjustments.

If the organisation, education provider or employer refuses your request, they should explain why. The reasons for refusal can help you decide whether it is discrimination.

For example:

An organisation or employer may legally refuse an adjustment if it was too expensive or would disrupt other people or the business. This is not discrimination.

Refusing to make an adjustment that is cheap and easy to implement could be discrimination.

It could also be discrimination if the employer, services or education provider:

  • tells you that you cannot get an adjustment because it's 'unusual' or 'favouritism'
  • discourages you from making a written request for reasonable adjustments
  • makes comments like "We are doing you a favour by having you here in the first place."

Proving that you're disabled

You should be able to get smaller and cheaper adjustments without proving that you're disabled. For larger adjustments, it may help to show disability benefit paperwork or a GP's letter. You will always need written proof in court.

Smaller adjustments

You should not have to prove that you are disabled. If a shop or public service refuses a smaller adjustment, complaining is probably the best way to get the support you need.

If you're trying to access a service that a company offers, complaining on social media can be useful. This can be a good way to get companies to make smaller adjustments if they refuse them when you ask.

Do not use social media to complain about your employer.

Examples of smaller adjustments could include:

  • being able to talk to shop staff somewhere quiet
  • being allowed behind the counter to pay if it's too high

Larger adjustments

For larger adjustments, you might be asked to prove that you are disabled or how it affects you. There is no 'register' for disabled people so proving things can be hard.

It may help to show that you:

  • get a state benefit like Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • are registered as blind or deaf with your local authority
  • have a disabled bus pass or railcard
  • have a Blue Badge

In court

If you go to a court or tribunal, you will need to prove that your condition is classed as 'disabled' under the Equality Act. You will also need to prove that you are at a 'substantial disadvantage' compared to other people. This usually means a written report or letter. This could be from a:

  • doctor
  • occupational therapist
  • educational psychologist

County Court and tribunals

County Court or a tribunal is a way of enforcing your rights to reasonable adjustments.

Making a claim at employment tribunals (GOV.UK)


Find out if you have a good case

Getting advice about whether you have a legal case can help you decide how to get what you need.

It may be hard to prove that someone has refused an adjustment unreasonably.

Going to a court or tribunal takes time and can cost money. It can also be stressful.

Finding free or affordable legal help (Citizens Advice)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 31/10/2023

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