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Duty to make reasonable adjustments at work - what must employers do?

This advice applies to Scotland

If you’re disabled, employers have a duty to change their procedures and remove the barriers you face because of your disability so you can work and apply for jobs in the same way as someone who's not disabled.

The Equality Act 2010 calls this the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

Read this page to find out more about what the Equality Act says employers must do under their duty to make reasonable adjustments.

When can you ask an employer to make reasonable adjustments?

If you have a disability which disadvantages you at work or when you want to apply for a job, your employer has to make adjustments which are reasonable in order to overcome the disadvantage.

You should never be asked to pay for any of the adjustments as the employer should cover the cost for these.

There are three different things employers may have to do to make it easier for you to do your job or apply for a job, if you’re disabled. These are:

  • change the way things are done in the workplace
  • make physical changes to the office premises
  • provide extra aids or support.

The employer will only need to make adjustments that stop you suffering a disadvantage, so they don't have to make every adjustment that is possible or suggested.

Are you disabled?

You’re only covered by the Equality Act if you have a disability which meets the definition in the Act.

Changing the way things are done in your workplace

Employers may have a certain way of doing things which disadvantages you if you’re disabled. This could be a written or unwritten policy, procedure or practice. It could also be a rule or criterion - for example, for promotion or training, as well as your working conditions and contractual arrangements.

The Equality Act calls these provisions, criteria or practices.

Identifying the provision, criterion or practice

It's important to think carefully about what provision, criteria or practice is causing the disadvantage because this will affect the adjustment the employer has to make. For example, if you have a condition which affects your concentration at work and makes it hard for you to meet targets your disadvantage might be caused by a lack of frequent breaks rather than the targets which are imposed, although it could be both.

Examples of provisions, criterions or practicesExamples of adjustments

Your contractual working conditions, including:

  • workload
  • targets
  • responsibilities or duties
  • working hours
  • leave.

Allocate some of your duties to another staff member, if you're unable to meet the targets or cope with your workload because of your disability

Transfer you to another job, if you become unable to do your current job because of your disability

Allow you to take extra breaks during the day

Allow you to take time off work or disability leave if you need treatment or rehabilitation training

Requirement to return to your existing job or be dismissed if you've been on sick leave

Allow you to work flexibly - for example, work part time or from home

Allow you to have a phased return to work

Allow you to return to an alternative job or adjust your duties and responsibilities

Parking arrangements at work Reserve a parking space for you near the office
Disciplinary or grievance procedure

Allow you to bring a friend to a disciplinary meeting if you suffer from anxiety or have a learning disability

Postponing the disciplinary meeting or holding it in a neutral place

Redundancy procedures Ignore periods of disability-related absences when applying redundancy selection criteria
Recruitment procedures, including selection criteria and interview

Allow you extra time to complete an assessment

Ignore any absences in your last job which are disability-related

Make adjustments to the office premises

If you’re disabled, employers may need to make structural or other physical changes to the office premises to make them more accessible for you - for example:

  • providing ramps and stairway lifts
  • making doorways wider
  • installing automatic doors
  • providing more lighting and clearer signs
  • rearrange the furniture or move your work station to a more accessible area in the office.

Provide extra aids or support

Sometimes you may need particular equipment, aids or assistance to help you carry out your work. The Equality Act calls this auxiliary aids and services.

Here are examples of things employers could do:

  • provide special equipment or modify existing equipment - for example, adapted desks, chairs or keyboards
  • provide extra training
  • employ a support worker to assist you - for example, if you have a visual impairment and need to make home visits
  • produce manuals and other information in accessible format - for example, Braille, audio CD, or provide information orally
  • provide extra supervision or other staff support.

However, an employer wouldn’t have to provide equipment which is unconnected with your work - for example, a wheelchair.

Example

You have mental health problems and feel very anxious and stressed about your ability to do your job. Your employer agrees to provide you with extra support and additional training so you feel more confident about your work. This is a reasonable adjustment to make so you can keep working.

What can you do if an employer fails to make a reasonable adjustment?

If an employer fails to make reasonable adjustments, it’s unlawful disability discrimination and you can take action against them under the Equality Act. It's usually best to raise the issue with your employer through their grievance process. If you can't resolve the problem by informal discussion, then you may need to make a formal grievance with your employer.

Next steps

Other useful information

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website at

Acas

Acas works with both employers and employees to solve workplace problems.

You can phone the Acas helpline on: 0300 123 1100 and speak to an adviser about your employment problems. The helpline is open 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

You can find useful information about how to sort out work-place problems on the Acas website at

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