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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. 

Reasonable adjustments may be to the recruitment process or to your workplace once you’ve started. Many reasonable adjustments cost little or nothing. But they can make a big difference to disabled employees.

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.

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 how to fund them.

You will need to apply for Access to Work. Your employer cannot do this for you.

Apply to Access to Work (GOV.UK)

Paying for assessments and adjustments: 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.

Access to Work is reviewed every 3 years. This allows you to apply for upgrades in your support technology.

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. If they have their own disability specialist helping to assess what you need, this can be a good thing.

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.

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

  • Adapted equipment, such as chairs, keyboards or voice recognition software
  • Different responsibilities, maybe even a different job
  • Transferring some tasks to a colleague
  • 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

Support and training

  • Providing 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 and others you cannot.

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

Record everything

Keep copies of everything that you send to your employer and make notes of your conversations. Include:

  • dates and times
  • what was said
  • who said it

You will need these records if you have to attend an employment tribunal.

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.

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.

If you have to take time off, talk with your employer about coming back to work. This is a good time to talk about your impairment and adjustments. You do not need to wait for your employer to talk about this.

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 process 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.

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. Be assertive but calm. This will help you maintain a good working relationship while getting your employer to fulfil their responsibilities.

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.

Ask for your needs and adjustments to be part of your regular supervision. If you do not have regular reviews or supervisions, ask for them.

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.

Employment information supported by Virgin Media.

We're working with Virgin Media to support 1 million disabled people in getting into and staying in work by the end of 2020.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 04/12/2020

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