It is an employer’s legal duty to ensure reasonable adjustments are made to negate any disadvantages a person with a disability may encounter when undertaking work duties, in comparison to those who are not affected by a disability. This applies not only to current employees but also to job applicants.
The very nature of reasonable adjustments means that there is no single uniform approach, as they are tailored to meet individual needs. It therefore follows that the type of adjustments required can be wide ranging, however, they do need to fall within the realms of what is deemed as reasonable. Again, what is deemed reasonable will differ depending upon the needs of the individual, and from organisation to organisation, but overall, any changes made must be practical and affordable for the employer to implement.
Reasonable adjustments are also an ongoing concern meaning that reviews may be required throughout your employment to accommodate for your changing needs. They play a significant role in helping employees participate and remain in the workplace.
‘I have a parking space near the office which helps greatly with physical fatigue as I don’t have far to walk. This has also reduced my anxiety as I used to worry about getting there early enough to find a parking space that wasn’t more than five minutes’ walk from the office’
Types of adjustment
Adjustments will vary from person to person in line with specific individual needs. It is therefore difficult to provide a full list of reasonable adjustments. However, the following are a few examples of how they can be applied.
- A person who is affected by visual impairment is provided with suitable assistive technology such as screen readers, digital screen magnification programmes and other adaptive hardware to help them use equipment such as PCs and laptops
- Flexibility in working hours, including bespoke start/finish times, extended breaks, and temporary reductions in working hours when an employee is most affected by their condition
- Review everyday tasks as per the employee’s job description. This could involve creating a bespoke role for the employee so that they can focus on tasks that are more accessible, either temporarily or permanently
- Providing access to parking spaces that are close to the entrances and exits of workplace buildings
‘I plan my leave to give myself regular breaks through the year’
Whatever solutions are put into place, the result must be the reduction or removal of any disadvantage that the disabled employee could encounter.
‘I was taken off certain duties to ensure I was safe at work’
Starting the conversation
Before consulting with your employer, think of the adjustments that would help you. If your employer has a formal staff handbook have a read through it to see what your employer has written on this matter. The handbook may provide advice on any formalised procedures that you must follow to instigate the conversation.
When you feel ready to do so, arrange for a meeting with your line manager or another appropriate senior colleague for an initial discussion. Alternatively, you may prefer to start the conversation by putting your request for reasonable adjustments forward in writing, explaining more about your ideas of the appropriate measures that you would like to be considered.
It is strongly advised that face to face discussions are backed up in writing so that you have a written trail of the content of your meetings.
How occupational health can help
Occupational Health (OH) is a specialist medical advisory service which is designed to provide support to both employers and employees in the proactive management of workplace health and wellbeing. An OH assessment can help both parties to identify the most appropriate reasonable adjustments that need to be made to ensure the disabled employee is not disadvantaged.
The assessment incorporates a discussion between yourself and the OH specialist, focusing on issues such as your mental and physical health, your working environment, the duties that you are required to undertake within your current role, any concerns you may have about being able to fulfil these duties safely and any other relevant information. Occasionally the specialist may require further information from your GP or medical consultant before finalising their assessment. This will only be done with your signed consent.
The post-assessment recommendations will then be passed on to your employer, again with your consent only, so that they can work with you to plan and then implement suitable tailored solutions, should they be required.
Who pays for reasonable adjustments?
It is the employer’s legal responsibility to pay for the implementation of all reasonable adjustments. However, there can be a disparity in what is deemed as reasonable depending upon the size of the business. For example, employees of larger businesses that have access to more financial and practical resources, may in-turn have access to a wider scope of available adjustments.
When reasonable adjustments are denied by the employer
If an employer refuses to implement any recommended adjustments without a strong argument as to why they are not reasonable, then this is a form of disability discrimination. If you feel that their refusal to implement adjustments is unfair, you can then challenge this decision via your employer’s formal grievance processes. ACAS provide further information on the Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. They also have a helpline available where you can obtain guidance about the best way to raise grievance procedures in the workplace.
Access to work
This is a UK Government grant to help you pay for support, not covered by reasonable adjustments, that will help you find or stay in work if you are affected by disability. Read more about Access to Work on our dedicated Benefits for MS webpage.
HR expert and MSer Rebecca Armstrong offers her advice on various issues regarding disability discrimination at work and reasonable adjustments via our blog.
- Your rights at work when you have MS
- 3 top tips for dealing with disability at work
- Reasonable adjustments and MS
- Adjusting reasonable adjustments at work
The Equality and Human Rights Commission provides information and advice on workplace adjustments.
The ACAS website provides a depth of detail that helps with understanding how the Equality Act 2010 provides the foundation for preventing workplace disability discrimination.
Support and advice
Should you require guidance on discrimination in the workplace you may wish to contact the following organisations that can provide support and advice.
- ACAS helpline – Available Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm
- Equality Advisory Support Service discrimination helpline – Available Monday to Friday between 9am and 7pm, Saturday between 10am and 2pm.
- Multiple Sclerosis Legal Advice Line – Disability Law Service funded by the MS Society
- WorkRights – A free automated legal advice platform powered by Disability Law Service
- Trade Unions – If you are a member of a trade union speak to your union representative. If you are not a member of a union and are interested in joining one, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) website guides on finding the right one for you