The Equality Act 2010 requires an employer to make reasonable adjustments to enable a disabled person to work.
You can get reasonable adjustments if:
you are disabled
your condition changes
you become disabled
you are self-employed
You can ask for reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process or once you’ve started work. This is an informal agreement between you and the employer. Many reasonable adjustments cost little or nothing. But they can make a big difference.
Adjustments can change as your needs change. If there are reasonable adjustments which would allow you to carry on working or help you to overcome barriers, ask for them.
If you’re not sure what these might be, Access to Work grants can pay for assessments and recommended adjustments.
If you are self-employed, it means you can choose your working hours. If you need flexible working hours or to work from home, have a conversation with any new client. Being open with clients from the start can help you get work that suits your needs. Not everyone will agree to your conditions. But being self-employed allows you to choose the jobs you want and reject those that create barriers for you.
For some jobs, simple changes can make a big difference. In some types of work, it’s harder to make changes. For example, you can do some jobs from home.
There is no set definition of ‘reasonable’. An occupational health assessment gives the employer a clear guideline of what may be considered reasonable. You can use this as evidence if this is ignored.
Take your time before making decisions or agreeing to anything.
Prepare for meetings
Keep copies of everything that you send to Access to Work and your employer. Make notes of your conversations, including:
dates and times
what was said
who said it
You may wish to prepare notes so you have an idea of what you want to say. Bring these with you and explain what you are finding difficult at work and what you think might be the solution. If you already know what you need, ask for it. Otherwise you should be given an assessment to determine how your needs can be met.
At the meeting, aim to agree on a timetable of specific actions. Share any notes or actions with the employer after the meeting. This is useful if needed at a later date.
Reasonable adjustments are not favouritism
Providing disabled and non-disabled people with the same working conditions is not enough. Employers have to consider all requests that would give disabled people the tools they need to do their job. Employers must follow the law by providing reasonable adjustments.
If you ask for reasonable adjustments that your employer thinks could be ‘favouritism’, ask them why they feel that way. Help them to understand how the changes will make it easier for you to do your job well.
Reasonable adjustments if you become disabled
If you become disabled while in work, you have rights. Do not assume, or let other people assume, that your working life is over.
You can do things that will increase your chances of staying in work. Most of these involve talking about your condition with your employer. Good employers will help you to explore your options and support you.
You will not know what’s possible unless you find out. You could:
continue to do your job
continue to do your job with adjustments to your environment or work pattern
do a different job for the same employer
stop working for your employer
The first step is to talk to your line manager or someone in HR about possible adjustments.
Asking for adjustments if you are returning to work
Your employer only has to provide reasonable adjustments if they are aware of your increased needs. Make sure you tell them when you need these. Keep a written record if you need to prove this.
If you have been off work due to your condition, email your employer to say that this is disability-related. By doing this, there’s a record of what you have told your employer.
If you have been off work for some time, your employer may ask occupational health to assess you:
to make sure you are fit to return
to seek advice on any adjustments that may be required
Ask for a meeting to review your adjustments.
Talking to your employer
Your employer’s human resources (HR) policies and procedures might describe how they should be helping you. Even if the policies do not mention reasonable adjustments, they are still your legal right.
Other employers might be embarrassed or not know what to do. They will need you to take the lead. Approach your line manager or a member of the HR team to start the process.
Check your contract. Ask for HR policies and procedures, such as a sickness policy or guidance on employing disabled people. Share these with your manager.
It’s best to start with small conversations. Even if you're stressed, be ready to make your case and listen to any concerns your employer may have. Your employer may be trying their best to help. Be reasonable, but expect your employer to be reasonable too. If they're not, that's the right time to become assertive.
If you do not get a response, make a formal request in writing and consider raising a grievance.
Ask your employer if you can bring someone along to meetings. This could be a colleague, union representative, friend or family member. They should be responsible and reliable. They could be useful to help you understand information and to take notes. This is especially important if your employer is unsupportive.
If the meeting is a formal grievance hearing, you have a right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative.
If you have to attend an employment tribunal, remember to take all the notes with you.
You may have an occupational health assessment as part of the process of working out what adjustments you need. This is common.
Ask your employer for an assessor with experience of helping disabled people to overcome barriers to stay in work. This is called vocational rehabilitation. Not all occupational health assessors or therapists have experience in this area. You may need to search online or get a personal recommendation.
Assessments tell the employer what adjustments may be required. Usually, assessors are there to help you, but they send their report to your employer.
Ask to see the report before it goes to your employer. This allows you time to suggest alterations.
Sharing medical information
You must share medical information if your occupational health assessor asks your GP. Do not ignore the request. You only need to share information that will help your employer to understand your needs at work. You do not need to include anything else. For example, if your needs are linked to mobility, you do not need to share anything about your mental health.
Template if your employer refuses adjustments
[Employer’s name] [Employer’s address] [Date]
Dear [name of the person you are writing to],
Subject: Reasonable Adjustment Request
I am writing to ask for some changes to my work arrangements. I want to be able to do my job well and making these changes will support me to do that.
[Explain how your impairment or condition affects your work. Give the facts, be specific and clear.
the adjustments you need at work before you can start working
how this would help you do your job better
if possible, explain how the employer can make these changes without disrupting the business. If you’re not sure how this might affect the business, ask if you can talk about this.]
The Equality Act 2010 says that employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees when a person is at a substantial disadvantage compared with an employee who is not disabled.
Employers must take reasonable steps to address this. These can include:
changing policies, procedures and practices
changing the physical environment
providing extra aids and services
If it is reasonable for the employer to make a change, then it should be made.
I believe that as a disabled person, under the Equality Act 2010 I am entitled to the reasonable adjustments I have requested.
I would be happy to discuss this request in more detail, but I would like a written response within 14 days.
Negotiating with your employer can be challenging. Being assertive will help you to get the employer to fulfil their responsibilities. But being aggressive might mean that they will not want to employ you.
You may want to challenge a decision if you think that their decision does not follow their own policies and procedures.
Your employer could be discriminating against you if they refuse a request for a reasonable adjustment. If they do this, you should get help and advice on what to do next.
If you're not sure what your rights are, you can get legal advice from your:
union, if you’re a member
household insurance provider, if you have legal cover
Your employer needs to check that you have what you need to do your job. There should be someone at your organisation responsible for this. Your manager or a member of HR will be able to tell you who this is.
You can ask for a review if:
your condition changes
adjustments are no longer working
you want to know what else is available
your role changes
If your adjustments are not working, raise your concerns immediately. This will affect your performance. Having the right adjustments allows you to do your job effectively. People in HR sometimes call this a ‘capability issue’. Raise this within the organisation before resorting to unions or getting legal advice.
Remind your employer that they can renew adjustments through Access to Work every 3 years. This allows you to apply for upgrades in your support technology.