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What can you do if an employer refuses to make reasonable adjustments

If you’re disabled, employers have a duty to remove the barriers you face because of your disability so you can do your job or apply for a job 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 you can do if your employer fails to make reasonable adjustments.

What adjustments can you ask for?

If you have a disability which disadvantages you at work or when applying for a job, you can discuss with your employer what adjustments you think you may need to avoid the disadvantage.

There’s no obligation for you to suggest adjustments and your employer may have to carry out an assessment to identify suitable ones. Your employer should always consult you before making adjustments to make sure they’re suitable for you.

Are you disabled?

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

Are the adjustments reasonable?

If you ask your employer to make adjustments at work, they only have to do so if the adjustments are reasonable. What’s reasonable depends on things like your disability, how effective the adjustments would be in overcoming the disadvantage and the resources of the employer.

Identifying adjustments

If you want advice on suitable adjustments you can contact a disability employment adviser at your local Jobcentre Plus office or you may be able to get help through the Access to Work scheme. You might also get help from charities which support people with certain disabilities.

Access to Work is a government scheme that works with disabled people and employers to work out what changes are needed so the disabled person can do their job. Find out more about the Access to Work scheme on the Disability Rights UK website at

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

If your employer fails to make a reasonable adjustment, it’s unlawful discrimination and you can take action under the Equality Act.

You can do the following things:

  • talk informally with your employer about it
  • raise a written grievance or make a formal complaint to your employer
  • make a disability discrimination claim in the employment tribunal.

Although you may not want to raise a grievance, you should try and sort things out with your employer before going to the employment tribunal. Compensation may be reduced if you win your case, but didn't put in a grievance before making a claim.

However, you need to make your claim to the employment tribunal within 3 months of the act you’re complaining about. So it’s also important you act quickly to make sure you’re not running out of time to make your claim.

Example

You suffer from panic attacks and anxiety. Your occupational therapist has arranged part-time work for you and helped you negotiate adjustments with your employer, including frequent breaks. However, your employer is now refusing to allow you take your breaks and you feel unable to do the job and want to resign.

Your employer’s refusal to make reasonable adjustments is unlawful discrimination and you can take action under the Equality Act.

What if you’re dismissed?

If your employer fails to make reasonable adjustments and you're dismissed as a result - for example, because you're unable to do your job - you can take action against your employer for failure to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act. This is also likely to be discrimination because of something connected to your disability

In addition, you may also be able to claim unfair dismissal if you’ve worked for your employer for the required period of time.

If your employer fails to make reasonable adjustments and you're forced to resign as a result, you can also complain about unlawful disability discrimination. In this case, you may also be able to claim constructive dismissal.

Example

Your employer’s dismissed you because he says you’re not able to do your job due to your disability. He could have transferred you to another available job which you were qualified for. This is unlawful disability discrimination and you can take action against your employer for failure to make reasonable adjustments. This is also likely to be discrimination because of something connected to your disability.

What if other employees need to co-operate with the adjustment?

In some situations, your employer may need to ensure other employees co-operate when they make reasonable adjustments. Employers should always make sure they respect your confidentiality when discussing this with your colleagues.

If some of your colleagues refuse to co-operate or are obstructive, your employer would still need to make the adjustments. An employer couldn’t generally rely on this to avoid making adjustments which are reasonable.

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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