Disabled PAs and Reasonable Adjustments
A ‘reasonable adjustment’ is a change that must be made to remove or reduce a disadvantage related to:
- An employee’s disability when doing their job
- A job applicant’s disability when applying for a job
A reasonable adjustment could involve making changes to
- The workplace
- Equipment or services provided (both current or new services), for example an appropriate keyboard for someone with arthritis
- The ways things are done
- Make sure you can provide information in an accessible format
Example of a change to the workplace
An employee who uses a wheelchair has been struggling to get to the employers house because they can only manage to use the wheelchair for short distances. The employer supports their employee to use their driveway as an accessible car parking space.
Example of a change to the way things are done
An employee with epilepsy can sometimes struggle with drowsiness and lack of energy in the mornings. So their employer agrees for the employee to start their working hours later when this happens.
When an employer must consider making reasonable adjustments
By law, an employer must consider making reasonable adjustments when:
- They know, or could be expected to know, an employee or job applicant is disabled
- A disabled employee or job applicant asks for adjustments
- A disabled employee is having difficulty with any part of their job
- An employee’s absence record, sickness record or delay in returning to work is because of or linked to their disability
The employer must make the changes if they’re reasonable.
The employer must also consider reasonable adjustments for anything linked to an employee’s disability. For example, if an employer does not allow an assistance dog in the building for a partially sighted person, it’s likely to be discrimination.
What is reasonable
What’s ‘reasonable’ will depend on each situation. The employer needs to consider carefully if the adjustment:
- Will remove or reduce the disadvantage for the disabled person
- Is practical to make
- Is affordable by the employer
- Could harm the health and safety of others
What the employer can consider changing
The employer must look at what they can do to reduce or remove the disadvantage for the disabled person, such as:
- Changing working arrangements, for example the employee’s shift pattern
- Removing something from the workplace, for example certain bright lights
- Providing something in the workplace, for example an accessible car parking space
- Providing extra or specialised equipment
- Getting someone in to help
To help make the best decision, the employer could:
- Get professional advice
- Get quotes
- Research different options
To help see what adjustments are needed, the employer and employee could agree to get an occupational health assessment.
Examples of reasonable adjustments can include
- A phased return to work for an employee who’s been on long-term sick leave because of their disability
- Allowing more frequent breaks for someone with diabetes to get the right amount of food or drink throughout the day
Good practise for employers
It’s a good idea for the employer to focus on the reasonable adjustments they can make rather than trying to work out if an employee’s condition is a disability.
The employer should make sure their workplace policies do not put disabled employees at a disadvantage.
For example, they might look at policies on working hours, shift patterns and managing sickness absence.
Keeping a record of reasonable adjustments
When an employer makes a reasonable adjustment for an employee, it’s a good idea for them to set up a ‘reasonable adjustments passport’.
It also helps employees and employers make sure the reasonable adjustment is:
- Up to date
When an employer might not have to make a change
The employer does not have to change the basic nature of the job for the person.
If an employer is not sure if they must make an adjustment for a disabled person, they should get legal advice first.
Who covers the cost?
The employer is responsible for paying for any reasonable adjustments.
Many adjustments can be simple and affordable. However, an employer might not be able to afford the same level of adjustments as a big company.
An employer does not have to make adjustments that are unreasonable but should still try to find other ways to support the employee.
If an employer cannot afford a reasonable adjustment, the disabled employee might be able to apply for funding through the government’ Access to Work scheme.
Take a look at the article below on ‘Disabled Discrimination at Work’ to guide you in more detail.