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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 recruitment or once you’ve started work. Many reasonable adjustments cost little or nothing. But they can make a big difference.

If you are requesting reasonable adjustments when you have a job offer, make sure you have the offer in writing. This can be a letter or email. This is important if the offer is withdrawn.

Access to Work grants can pay for occupational assessments and recommended adjustments.

Occupational health assessments

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 possible solutions 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. You have a right to apply for this support.

Access to Work

If you do not know what adjustments you need, an Access to Work assessment can help.

Ask your employer to help. Talk to someone who knows what the job is like day to day. This may be your future manager or someone on your team.

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)

If you become disabled

If you become disabled in work, you have rights.

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. 

Find out what’s possible. 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 manager or someone in HR about possible adjustments.

What is 'reasonable'?

For some jobs, simple changes are easy and can make a big difference. For example, you can do some jobs from home.

In some types of work, it’s harder to make changes.

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 they ignore this.

Reasonable adjustments are not favouritism

Providing disabled and non-disabled people with the same working conditions is not enough. 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 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. 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.

Talking to your employer about disability

Assume that the employer knows nothing about what it’s like for you living, travelling and working as a disabled person. Talk about what it might be like to do the job.

Ask open questions that need more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Try to use the word ‘we’, for example:

  • “How about we...”
  • “What if we do...”

Letter template

You can use the following template to send a letter or email to your employer. Copy and paste it and fill in the blanks as appropriate.

Dear ____

As you are aware, I've been offered a job at [COMPANY]. I am delighted to accept this job offer.

You may be aware that I have an impairment that impacts me on a daily basis in [THIS WAY]. Because of this [AND ANY OTHER FACTORS] I'd like to talk to you about how we can facilitate my working fully with some adjustments.

Yours sincerely, [YOUR NAME]

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 could be useful to help you understand information and to take notes. This is especially important if your employer is unsupportive.

Finding an advocate

Local charities and advocacy organisations may be able to provide emotional support. Advocacy services are usually free.

Advocacy (Disability Rights UK)

Take notes and confirm what is agreed

Keep copies of everything you send to your employer and Access to Work. Make notes of your conversations, including:

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

Send an email so that there's a record that you asked for reasonable adjustments. If you have a conversation, send them a summary email and ask if this is accurate.

Preparing for meetings

You may wish to prepare notes, so you have an idea of what you want to say. If you already know what you need, ask for it. If not, ask for an occupational health assessment to see how your needs can be met.

At the meeting, aim to agree on specific actions. Share any notes or actions with the employer after the meeting. This is useful if needed later.

Occupational health assessments

You may have an occupational health assessment to work out what adjustments you need. This is common.

Ask your employer for an assessor with experience of supporting disabled people in work. This is called vocational rehabilitation. You may need to search online or get a personal recommendation.

Search for an assessor (Vocational Rehabilitation Association)

Assessments tell the employer what adjustments you need. The report goes to your employer. Ask to see it before. 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. For example, if your needs are linked to mobility, you do not need to share anything about your mental health.

If your employer rejects your adjustments or is not doing enough

If your employer rejects your request for reasonable adjustments, 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

Get a reply in writing from your employer. 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.  

Template if your employer refuses adjustments

If your line manager ignores or refuses your written request, send this template to a more senior manager or HR:

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.

Explain:

  • the adjustments you need at work before you can start working
  • future adjustments
  • 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.

Yours sincerely, [Your name]

Reasonable adjustment request (Word download)

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, email 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.

Finding free or affordable legal help (Citizens Advice)

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.

Get 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 difficult
  • 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 mediation services. Call the helpline on 0300 123 1100.

ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)

When you might be discriminated against

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
  • 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 bad at your job
  • you are not allowed equipment or adjustments that other staff 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.”

Get legal advice

If you're not sure what your rights are, you can get legal advice from your:

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

Helplines can also provide information:

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)

Take your employer to an employment tribunal

Tribunals can be 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 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.

Employment tribunals (GOV.UK)

Taking legal action about discrimination at work (Citizens Advice)

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
  • you are returning to work
  • 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: 23/03/2022

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