How to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ at work

 

A disabled worker whose employer failed to make reasonable adjustments has been awarded an overall sum of £45,000 by Hull Employment Tribunal.

 

The Yorkshire-based healthcare company was found to have unfairly dismissed an employee who suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis after she resigned from her role because the necessary adjustments were not made.

 

The tribunal heard that she had repeatedly asked for a voice recognition service to be installed on her computer that would have reduced the amount of typing needed for her role. The software was eventually installed, but only after two years in which the employee took multiple periods of sick leave because of the pain in her hands.

 

The judge ruled: “Given that a material and indeed very significant cause of the claimant’s resignation was her having been subjected to unlawful discrimination, not least in the prolonged failure to make reasonable adjustments, that dismissal must also be categorised as a further act of unlawful discrimination.”

 

What is a reasonable adjustment?

Reasonable adjustments are changes an employer should make to remove or minimise disadvantages experienced by an employee with a disability. The role remains the same, but the means of doing the job, such as the tools or equipment they use should be changed accordingly.

 

Adjustments should be made for both employees carrying out their day-to-day duties and job applicants taking part in the recruitment process.

 

When must an employer make reasonable adjustments?

When a workplace practice puts a worker or job applicant with a disability at a disadvantage, the employer has a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to see what reasonable adjustments can be made if:

 

  • It becomes aware of their disability

  • It could reasonably be expected to know a worker has a disability

  • The worker asks for adjustments to be made

  • The worker is having difficulty with any part of their job

  • Either the worker’s sickness record, or delay in returning to work, is linked to their disability.

The disability must be recognised by the Equality Act 2010 as a substantial and long term condition. The employer should hold a meeting with the worker to discuss what can be done to help them.

 

What reasonable adjustments can be made?

Some examples of reasonable adjustments might include:

 

  • A special chair because of back problems

  • A special keyboard because of arthritis

  • A ramp for a wheelchair user

  • Changing working hours or patterns of work

  • A phased return after sick leave

  • A designated car park space

  • Modifying sickness absence triggers – these are the number of days’ absence when managers consider warning, and possible dismissal, unless attendance at work improves

  • Modifying performance targets.

Employers should remember the aim of the adjustment is to take away the disadvantage for the disabled person and enable them to carry out their duties.

 

Reasonable adjustments for job applicants

Employers should ask applicants whether they need any reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process. Reasonable adjustments to the recruitment process should be made if the:

 

  • Job applicant has indicated a disability in the application

  • Employer becomes aware of it

  • Candidate asks for reasonable adjustments.

 

Before offering a job, the employer must only ask a disabled applicant what reasonable adjustments are needed:

 

  • For any part of the recruitment process, and once those are in place whether they are suitable, and/or

  • To determine whether the applicant could carry out a function essential to the role with the reasonable adjustments in place.

 

What happens if reasonable adjustments aren’t made?

If a worker feels they have been discriminated against, they may raise a written grievance or formal complaint against their employer.

 

If the discrimination is particularly serious or requests for adjustments are repeatedly ignored, they may be able to bring a claim of disability discrimination to an employment tribunal as shown in the recent example. The employer may also suffer harm to their reputation for being an inclusive employer

 

What next?

If you’d like any help on how to make reasonable adjustments and avoid cases of discrimination, call a Deminos advisor on 020 7870 1090.

Author David Ralph

More posts by David Ralph

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