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Reasonable adjustments at work

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. 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 specialist assessments and recommended adjustments.

You can ask for reasonable adjustments even before you have started a new job. Your employer can only offer reasonable adjustments if they know you are disabled.

Asking for adjustments when you have a job offer

Who is responsible for reasonable adjustments

Good employers will have effective procedures to meet the needs of disabled employees. But your employer may need help understanding your specific requirements. Asking for reasonable adjustments will enable you to do your job better. It will also help your employer by suggesting solutions to possible barriers and showing how to fund them.

Access to Work grants

Access to Work grants can help pay for adjustments at work and for specialist assessments. These are Government grants but it's your responsibility to apply for them.

If an employer knows about Access to Work and wants you to apply, this is a good sign. Some businesses prefer to pay for adjustments themselves. Some have their own disability specialists.

If your employer does not consider what kind of adjustments you need, or how Access to Work could pay for them, they could be discriminating against you.

If you are self-employed, how much financial support you get from Access to Work will depend on your individual case. You cannot use Access to Work to cover start-up costs for a new business.

Access to Work

Disability discrimination at work

Examples of reasonable adjustments

Employers and employees need to communicate openly, because the needs of all employees are different. This is true, even if they have a similar impairment to another person. Ask Access to Work for an assessment and if they can fund some of these adjustments.

Physical adjustments

Physical adaptations can include:

  • adapted equipment, such as chairs, keyboards or voice recognition software
  • changes to the work environment, such as lowering desks, using natural daylight bulbs, modifying entrances

Display screen equipment (DSE) checklist (GOV.UK)

Changing working patterns and hours

Other workplace adjustments could include:

  • giving you different responsibilities, maybe even a different job
  • transferring some tasks to a colleague
  • flexible working
  • working from home
  • compressed hours
  • going part-time

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.

Support and training

Access to Work could also provide:

  • a reader, interpreter or personal assistant
  • training and support for people you work with

Accessibility solutions (Action on Hearing Loss)

What is 'reasonable'?

For some jobs, simple changes are easy and 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’. It's unique to each organisation, but your employer will have to think about:

  • cost
  • practicality
  • effectiveness
  • disruption
  • health and safety

Working out what's possible is what the law calls 'reasonable adjustments'. 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.

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.

Your condition is not what disables you; it’s the way that society treats you. This is called the social model of disability. 

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, your employer should deal with this as disability-related, rather than as sickness. If they do not, email them to say that this is disability-related. By doing this, there’s a record of what you have told your employer. If you are not offered a meeting to review your adjustments, request this specifically.

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.

Talking to your employer about disability

Get support if you need it

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.

Employment tribunals (GOV.UK)

Occupational health assessments

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.

Search for an assessor (Vocational Rehabilitation Association)

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.

If your employer is not doing enough

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.

Reasonable adjustments request letter template (if refused) 

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

Helplines can also provide information:

Regular reviews: are things working for you?

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.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 27/04/2021

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