I receive many enquiries from disabled employees asking about their rights at work and what reasonable adjustments their employer is obliged to provide. In this post, I set out some guidance for any disabled employee seeking reasonable adjustments at work.
The Obligation to Make Reasonable Adjustments at Work
The obligation for an employer to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled employee and the consequences if they fail to do so are set out within the Equality Act 2010. The starting point in any consideration of the duty to make reasonable adjustments is whether the employee seeking those adjustments is a disabled person.
What is a Disability?
The Equality Act 2010 states that a disability is a ‘physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on [the disabled person’s] ability to carry out normal day to day activities’.
Substantial means something more than a minor impact or inconvenience. The Employment Tribunal are aware that medical impairments can fluctuate. Symptoms may come and go completely or increase and decrease in their severity. The Employment Tribunal are also aware that people with medical impairments may have their symptoms alleviated through medication or, indeed, through their own coping strategies. The ability of a disabled person to cope with a medical impairment does not mean that the impact upon them is not substantial.
The medical impairment also has to be long term, which means the effects must have lasted (or be likely to last) for at least 12 months.
The reference to day to day activities refers to normal everyday activities. The Employment Tribunal have considered activities such as using a computer, writing, socialising, mobility, driving etc to be day to day activities.
There are some conditions, such as cancer, where the person is automatically considered to be disabled and entitled to protection. This is even if the effects of that person’s condition are not yet substantial in their impact on day to day activities. The fact of the diagnosis is sufficient for the person to be considered as disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and disability discrimination protection.
What Are Reasonable Adjustments?
A reasonable adjustment should remove or minimise any disadvantage experienced by a disabled employee in their work. It is important to note that the reasonable adjustment requested should assist that particular employee, with their particular disability, in their particular employment. More than any other type of disability discrimination, the duty to make reasonable adjustments at work and any suggestion that the employer has failed to make those adjustments is sensitive to the particular circumstances of the individual and, to some extent, the employer.
When do Employers Have to Make Reasonable Adjustments?
Realistically, once an employer knows that an employee is a disabled person, they should begin conversations about what, if any, reasonable adjustments at work would assist that employee in their role. It is therefore crucial that the employer is aware of (or should be aware of) the employee’s status as a disabled person. Often employees are reluctant to notify their employers of their health conditions. However, given the very specific nature of reasonable adjustment matters, if an employer did not know (or could not know) of the employee’s disabled status, they could easily defend any suggestion that they failed to comply with their duty to make reasonable adjustments.
Examples of Reasonable Adjustments
As suggested above, what will be a reasonable adjustment is very specific to the circumstances of the employee and, to an extent, the employer. However, if there is a dispute about whether an employer fails to make reasonable adjustments at work, the Employment Tribunal will take into account the following: –
A. Is the adjustment practical to make?
B. Does the employer have the resources to pay for or support the adjustment?
C. Will the adjustment be effective in overcoming or reducing the disadvantage to the employee in the workplace?
D. Would the adjustment have an adverse impact on the health and safety of others?
As is suggested above, these types of issues are incredibly fact sensitive and will relate to the individual circumstances of the employee and the employer. However, examples of reasonable adjustments given in the Equality and Human Rights Commissions Employment Statutory Code of Practice include: –
A. A special chair because of back problems;
B. A special keyboard because of arthritis;
C. A ramp for a wheelchair user;
D. Changing working hours or patterns or work;
E. Phased return after absence;
F. Modification of procedures for ill health absence, and
G. Modification of procedures for performance or, indeed, performance targets.
How do I Request Reasonable Adjustments?
If you need reasonable adjustments at work because of your disability, the starting point is to speak in confidence with your Manager or your employer’s Human Resources department. Make sure that you are clear about your status as a disabled person and, also, that you are requesting reasonable adjustments. The more specific you can be about the help you need the better.
If you are referred by your employers to Occupational Health or similar, make sure you are clear about the difficulties you are experiencing at work due to your disability and the reasonable adjustments you are requesting your employer to make to remove or minimise those difficulties.
If you still can’t get the adjustments you need, you may have to raise a formal grievance with your employer. For more information, read our blog post https://lincslaw.co.uk/blog/need-to-send-a-grievance-or-complaint-to-your-employer/
Can Lincs Law Employment Solicitors Help You?
If you are disabled and your employer is refusing to make the reasonable adjustments you need, we would be delighted to assist you. For a free telephone consultation, please do not hesitate to call 01522 440512. Alternatively, for more information about Lincs Law Employment Solicitors please visit our website at www.lincslaw.co.uk.
Specialist Employment Law Solicitor
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors
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