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Reasonable Adjustments

What kind of adjustments does the law require employers to make?

Where someone meets the definition of a disability in the Equality Act 2010 employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to any elements of the job which place a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled people.

The Equality Act 2010 recognises that bringing about equality for disabled people may mean changing the way that employment is structured.

Self Employed: If you are self-employed you may be able to get help to cover the cost of your reasonable adjustments through Access to Work.

What’s Reasonable?

Employers are only required to make adjustments that are reasonable. The size and nature of the organisation, the cost and practicability of making an adjustment and the resources available to an employer are all relevant in deciding what’s reasonable.

Many of the adjustments an employer can make will not be particularly expensive or take a lot of time. Simple adjustments can make a huge difference.

Reasonable adjustments aim to make sure that disabled people have the same access to everything that is involved in doing and keeping a job as non-disabled people.

Employers are under a positive and proactive duty to take steps to remove, reduce or prevent the obstacles disabled people may face.

Speak Up!

Employers only have to make adjustments where they are aware, or should reasonably be aware, that you require them. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, it is against the law for your employer to treat you unfavourably because of your impairment or health condition.

Many factors will be involved in deciding what adjustments an employer should make and they will depend on individual circumstances. Different people will need different adjustments, even if they appear to have similar impairments.

Equality is not just about treating everyone the same. Treating people fairly in a way that achieves the same outcome for each person may mean providing additional support for people who need it.

Remember you should be treated fairly, not the same.

What do reasonable adjustments look like?

  • Reasonable adjustments to premises: A musician who is a wheelchair user has difficulty accessing the theatre where he works. His employer could make structural or other physical changes such as widening doorways, providing a ramp into the pit or moving furniture to accommodate the musician’s wheelchair.
  • Allocating some of your duties to another person: A music teachers job involves rearranging a classroom after lessons. Her impairment makes it difficult to do this quickly before the next teacher uses the classroom. She requests that her employer allocates this task to a teaching assistant who can rearrange the classroom in time for the next lesson.
  • Assigning you to a different place of work: A newly disabled music teacher, who now uses a walking stick, requires their employer to relocate classrooms. Previously he had taught on an inaccessible third floor classroom, now he requires an accessible room on the ground floor.
  • Acquiring or modifying equipment: A musician who works in an orchestra experiences difficulty reading scores. She requires her employer to provide an adapted music stand with additional lighting and scores in large print.
  • Taking a period of disability leave: A musician who has been diagnosed with cancer needs to undergo treatment and rehabilitation. Their employer organises a period of disability leave, and they return to their job at the end of this period.
  • Involving colleagues: In some situations, a reasonable adjustment will not work without the co-operation of other workers. Other staff may have an important role in helping make sure that a reasonable adjustment is carried out in practice.

Confidentiality

If you do not want your employer to involve colleagues, your employer must not breach your confidentiality by giving people information about your condition or impairment.

Case study

An orchestral musician on the autism spectrum needs a working day that is as structured as possible and to be made aware of any changes to schedule well in advance. Their employer makes changes to the rehearsal schedule as a reasonable adjustment.

Providing this reasonable adjustment means changing some aspects of the way the orchestra rehearses. The musician’s colleagues receive autism awareness training and an explanation of why rehearsals will be structured in a different way.

As part of the reasonable adjustment, it is the responsibility of the employer to make sure that other workers co-operate with this arrangement.

 

If you are reluctant for other staff to know about your condition or impairment, and your employer believes that a reasonable adjustment requires the co-operation of your colleagues, it may not be possible for the employer to make the adjustment unless you are prepared for some information to be shared.

It does not have to be detailed information, just enough to explain to other staff what they need to do.

Being Unreasonable?

If your employer does nothing, ignores your request or refuses to make reasonable adjustments contact your regional office for advice.

You can find further information about reasonable adjustments here.