If your employer rejects adjustments

If your employer rejects your request for reasonable adjustments, this can be worrying. Try to discuss this with your manager. If that does not work, you may have to take a more formal approach. You need to:

  • understand why your employer has rejected your request
  • negotiate to get what you need
  • be prepared to challenge discrimination

'Reasonable' adjustments

When employers make an adjustment for a disabled person, they should work with the employee to see what’s possible. The law calls this a 'reasonable adjustment'. Reasonable adjustments are not favouritism.

There is no set definition of what is 'reasonable'. Employers must consider all requests and look at the benefit to the disabled person. If employers reject a request for adjustments, they should say why. If they do not, then it could be discrimination.

Your employer may legally refuse the request you have made in some circumstances. For example, if it was too expensive or if it would disrupt other people's work. This is not discrimination.

More on reasonable adjustments at work

Things to try first

Always send an email confirming discussions about reasonable adjustments with your employer.

Email a formal request (if you have not already)

If your line manager ignores or refuses your written request, refer it to a more senior manager or HR.

Template for asking for reasonable adjustments.

Get a reply in writing from your employer (if you do not have one).

Why does your employer think the adjustments are not possible? Understanding this will help you to negotiate. It will also be useful evidence if you need to take things further.

If your employer will not give you a reply, get legal advice to work out if it's discrimination.

Check your employer’s policies

Your employer may have policies on reasonable adjustments. You can ask HR about these.

Look for any mention of disability or reasonable adjustments and any procedures that are attached to these. If your employer is not following their own procedures, send an email to your manager:

  • explaining the facts
  • saying what the policy says
  • describing what happened
  • asking for the policy to be followed

If your employer has good procedures and is not following them, get legal advice.

Respond to the reasons given by your employer

Think about why your employer has said that the adjustment you requested was not possible. If you disagree, email them.

  • Suggest ways the impact of the changes you’re asking for could be reduced.
  • Explain why you believe the adjustments would not cause problems.

Consider alternative adjustments

Your employer might suggest adjustments that you have not thought of. Suggest a trial period, try the adjustment and review it with your employer. If you cannot do your job with that adjustment, you will be able to show why it does not work.

Ask for an assessment

Vocational rehabilitation specialists support disabled people to stay in work. You can also get advice from:

  • Access to Work assessors
  • occupational health assessors

Access to Work can arrange and pay for assessments.

Discrimination

How your employer rejects your request is important.

  • Was the rejection in writing?
  • Did it consider what you need to do your job, as well as the cost and disruption to the business?

If not, it could be discrimination. if:

  • you’re ignored after asking for adjustments more than once
  • your employer rejects a request for an adjustment which is not expensive or disruptive
  • your employer says that they cannot make an adjustment because it's 'unusual' or ‘favouritism’
  • you have been discouraged from making a written request for reasonable adjustments
  • your employer will not give you an occupational health assessment when you ask for one
  • you’ve said that the lack of an adjustment is stopping you from doing your job, but your employer ignores this and treats you as if you’re just bad at your job
  • you are not allowed equipment or adjustments that other staff already have

Comments like these are also discrimination:

“Don’t be stupid, we can’t do that.”

"We are doing you a favour by having you here in the first place.”

“Go on then, play the disability card to get special treatment or get out of doing things properly.”

Take notes

If you think that your employer is discriminating against you:

  • take notes of any conversations you have
  • keep copies of any relevant emails or other messages

Be discreet and be careful not to compromise sensitive data. This will help if you go to an employment tribunal.

Challenging your employer’s decision

Get legal advice

You can get legal advice paid for by your:

  • union
  • household insurance provider (check your policy)
  • professional body

Services that provide free information and advice.

Raise a grievance

A grievance is a formal complaint at work. Sometimes the prospect of a grievance procedure can be a useful way of getting an employer to follow their own policies.

Dealing with grievances at work (Citizens Advice)

Get someone independent to help (mediation)

Mediators will try to help you and your employer to find a solution. They set out rules that everyone needs to follow and avoid talking about blame. They can help you both think about things in a different way.

This can be a good option if:

  • your employer does not have policies covering reasonable adjustments
  • the situation has become confrontational
  • it does not look like you are going to get the adjustments you need

The mediator should have a qualification from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) or another reputable body.

Acas helps with individual disputes and offers other types of mediation services. Call the helpline on 0300 123 1100.

Take your employer to an employment tribunal

Tribunals can be confrontational and stressful. They are a last resort. But, if you have good evidence, they can help you to get compensation or, in some cases, the reasonable adjustments you need to keep your job.

The time limit for making a claim is 3 months less one day from the rejection of the adjustment or a related incident.

You’re more likely to be successful in a tribunal if you can prove that your employer did not respond properly to your request for reasonable adjustments. You will have a stronger case if you can show that you’ve explored all the options. If you have not raised a grievance against your employer before a tribunal, you may get less compensation.

A legal adviser will tell you how likely you might be to win a case if it went to tribunal. Remember to check if your household insurance or union offer legal advice. No win, no fee lawyers also offer this service but you may end up sharing any compensation with them.

Employment tribunals (GOV.UK)

Taking legal action about discrimination at work (Citizens Advice)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 25/05/2018

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