The employer's duty 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 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 an employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments.
When must employers make adjustments under the Equality Act?
Employers must make adjustments if all the following things apply:
- you’re disadvantaged by something because of your disability
- it’s reasonable to make the changes in order to avoid the disadvantage, and
- the employer knows, or should reasonably be expected to know, about your disability and the disadvantage suffered because of it.
What's a reasonable step to ask for can vary and will depend on things like:
- your disability
- the size and resources of the employer
- how practicable the changes are
- if the change you ask for would overcome the disadvantage you experience
- if the change is what's needed or is more than necessary.
It doesn’t matter how big or small an employer is and how many hours you work, they still have a duty to make adjustments, if they’re reasonable.
Are you disabled?
You’re only covered by the Equality Act if you have a disability which meets the definition in the Act.
What must employers do?
The Equality Act sets out three things employers may have to do to remove the barriers you face because of your disability:
- change the way things are done in the workplace - for example, changing your duties, working hours or allow extra rest breaks
- make physical changes to the office premises
- provide extra aids or support - for example, support for work tasks or extra training.
Who must employers make reasonable adjustments for?
If you’re disabled, you can ask an employer to make reasonable adjustments if:
- you’ve told the employer you want to apply for a job,
- you’re applying for a job, or
- you’re already working for the employer.
If you’re a job applicant
If you want to apply for a job and think you may need adjustments, you should inform the employer about your disability and tell them what adjustments you may need. An employer doesn’t have to make adjustments for you unless they know you want to apply for a particular job.
For example, you could ask:
- for information about the job in a different format like Braille or large print
- to submit your job application form in a different format than that specified – for example, by hard-copy rather than online
- if you’ve been shortlisted for an interview, ask for adjustments to be made to the interview process.
If you’re working for an employer
If you become disabled or if your disability worsens during your employment, your employer will have to consider what adjustments are necessary to allow you to continue working. This may include providing specialist equipment, changing some of your working conditions or transferring you to another job.
If you’re an agency worker
If you’re an agency worker, you also have the right to ask for adjustments to be made in the place where you work.
What if the employer doesn’t know about your disability?
Employers only have a duty to make reasonable adjustments if they know about your disability or if they should know about your disability and its effect in causing a disadvantage.
This means that even if you haven’t told your employer about your disability, they may still have to take certain steps to find out if you’re disabled.
What must employers do to find out about your disability?
Employers must do all they can reasonably be expected to do to find out if you’re disabled. What’s reasonable depends on the circumstances of your case.
Employers will normally be expected to make enquiries where they see you have problems or are showing behaviour which may be linked to a disability - for example, absences from work or problems dealing with work tasks.
In particular, the courts have said that employers can’t simply rely on occupational health reports or reports from other medical advisers to decide if you’re disabled or not. An employer must make his own judgment based on the facts as to whether an employee is disabled or not. Where medical reports describe health problems that may be a disability, employers should recognise that advice when deciding about a disability issue or what further enquiries they need to make.
When can an employer be assumed to know about your disability?
If another employee - for example, your line manager or an HR officer - knows about your disability, then the employer will generally be assumed to know about your disability.
If the employer uses a third party to do some of its work - for example, an occupational health consultant or a recruitment agent who knows about your disability - then the employer will usually be assumed to know as well.
What can you do if an employer refuses to make a reasonable adjustment?
If an employer refuses to make reasonable adjustments, it’s unlawful disability discrimination and you can take action against them under the Equality Act.
- Duty to make reasonable adjustments - what must employers do?
- What can you do if an employer fails to make reasonable adjustments?
- What counts as a disability under the Equality Act 2010?
- Identifying discrimination at work
- Taking action about discrimination at work
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.
Acas works with both employers and employees to solve workplace problems.