Employment law

Reasonable adjustments

The Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal for you to be discriminated against because of disability. That's why you may wish to talk to your employer about making a reasonable adjustment for you.

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What is a reasonable adjustment?

The Equality Act 2010 states that no one should suffer workplace discrimination because of disability, putting employers under a duty to mitigate disadvantages in the workplace if it's reasonable for them to do so. If you've a disability - ranging from mild depression or the after-effects of a previous illness all the way through to paraplegia – getting through the working day can be harder for you than for other workers.

Under these circumstances, and especially when you're at a substantial disadvantage to non-disabled workers, you may be able to ask your employer to make reasonable adjustments on your behalf.

These may be very simple adjustments, such as allowing wheelchair users or visually impaired staff to vary their start and finish times in order to avoid having to use public transport during rush hour. Alternatively, it might involve taking measures such as allowing a phased return to work for people who've been off work with physical or mental health issues.

In the first instance, you should be able to make a request for reasonable adjustments directly to your employer, perhaps through the HR department. However, if your request has been refused and you consider this to be unfair or discriminatory, it may be time to speak to an experienced employment lawyer. Call us on 0330 041 5869 or contact us and we'll call you.

Who decides about what is a reasonable adjustment?

Despite being related to the Equality Act 2010, there's no hard and fast rule for what constitutes a reasonable adjustment. Many come about following friendly and informal discussions between individual employees and their line managers about how to make work arrangements fairer.

In other cases, GPs and occupational health professionals may issue a Fit Note – or Statement of Fitness to Work – that recommends a reasonable adjustment. This might suggest a number of options, including phased return to work, amended hours, amended duties or sometimes workplace adaptations.

Where workplace adaptations are recommended, the employer has a certain amount of discretion when it comes to deciding if they're reasonable or not. While this has now been superseded by the Equality Act 2010, their decision will often be based on factors taken from the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), which included:

  • The extent to which an adjustment will improve the disadvantage
  • The extent to which the adjustment is practicable
  • The financial and other costs of making the adjustment, and the extent to which the step might disrupt the employer's activities
  • The financial and other resources available to the employer
  • The availability of external financial or other assistance.
  • The nature of the employer's activities and the size of the undertaking

It therefore follows that while an adjustment such the installation of a wheelchair ramp and disabled toilets would be an eminently reasonable request to make of a large employer, it might be considered beyond the budget of a small business with only a few staff.

This is a very subjective area; if you've asked your employer to make a reasonable adjustment and your request has been turned down, it may be worth talking to one of our experienced employment solicitors today. Call us on 0330 041 5869 or contact us and we'll call you.

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