What are Reasonable Adjustments?

The Equality Act 2010 requires employers and service providers to make 'reasonable adjustments' that will allow disabled people to access the same opportunities and services as non-disabled people. But what is reasonable for one organisation may be impossible for another.

Woman in wheelchair sat at desk with laptop open waves and smilesThe rapid move online since the Covid pandemic has seen many improvements for disabled workers - such as flexible working, and inclusive working practices being explored by most organisations. But many new challenges and barriers have emerged and adjustments are needed to help people continue with their woirk.

But with so many rapid changes just what is reaosnable for employers to do to accommodate disabled people? 

What are Reasonable Adjustments?

The Equality Act 2010 requires employers and service providers to make 'reasonable adjustments' that will allow disabled people to access the same opportunities and services as non-disabled people. But what is reasonable for one organisation may be impossible for another.

Watch this captioned video of AbilityNet's Alex and Lizi explaining the basics of Reasonable Adjustments (download the transcript):

What are some examples of reasonable adjustments?

  •  Making adjustments to premises
  •  Allocating some of the disabled person’s duties to another person
  •  Altering working hours
  •  Allowing absence for rehabilitation, absence or treatment
  •  Arranging or giving extra training
  •  Acquiring or modifying equipment
  •  Modifying instructions or reference manuals
  •  Providing a reader or interpreter
  •  Providing supervision
A summary of the steps to support people with an impairment or long-term health condition in work:
Reasonable Adjustments factsheet

What does the law say?

Under the Equality Act 2010, there is a legal duty on employers to make these reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. The Act recognises that solutions may vary according to individual circumstances and offers simple criteria by which any proposed adjustment can be assessed — it must be effective, practical, and significant.

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Woman standing in office next to high desk with laptop openReasonable Adjustments case studies

Read about three real-life examples where employees have needed reasonable adjustments.

How do you know what adjustments are needed?

The most important lesson is that one size does not fit all.

It is not possible to recommend specific solutions for someone with dyslexia, for example, without considering the environment they work in, how much their role relies on their reading or writing, or whether they have related issues such as dyscalculia.

Why would I need an assessment?

A truly holistic one-to-one assessment can only be conducted by an expert such as those found in AbilityNet's assessment team, which includes professional chartered physiotherapists, ergonomists and occupational health specialists. Find out more about workplace assessments.

Who decides what is 'reasonable'?

There is a great deal of legal precedence to indicate what is considered Reasonable, and it is possible for employers to receive guidance before making any final commitment.

Man sat at desk concentrating look on his face as he looks at a laptopWhat disabilities are eligible for reasonable adjustments?

AbilityNet supports the ‘social model’ of disability which states that it is the interaction of a person’s disability with the barriers that society puts in place that prevent or hinder people’s access to the built environment, media, transport or education. Change must come from society, not be focused on the individual.

This is a counter to the so-called ‘medical model’ of disability which states that a disability is defined by an individual’s medical condition, and it is that condition that affects their ability to carry out tasks. In this model the way to resolve a disability to provide equal access is to treat or cure the condition.

The Equality Act is designed to make employers consider that a disabled person is usually made disabled by the environment they are placed in. They have a duty to provide conditions such that all employees can carry out their work.

How much do they cost?

Adjust Your COmputer. Change Your Life.Some adjustments cost nothing

  • Every day our Assessors recommend many different adjustments that cost nothing to implement, using existing hardware and software or making simple adjustments to work patterns or responsibilities.
  • For example, setting up a mouse for a left-handed person to avoid repetitive strain injury (RSI), or adjusting a spell checker for someone with dyslexia.
  • Many of the changes can be found in our free Factsheets or My Computer My Way.

Some cost a few pounds

  • Our experts often recommend low-cost options, such as specially adapted mice or keyboards, to help people with physical discomfort.
  • For many people a compact keyboard will replace a full-sized keyboard with a number pad allowing the mouse to be brought in closer and reducing the strain of stretching to use the mouse.
  • A trackball or ergonomic mouse can reduce stress on the wrist, which is a common cause of RSI.

Occasionally adjustments cost a few hundred pounds

  • Some people do need more expensive solutions, such as adjustable chairs or desks, or specialist software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking.
  • Such software often requires training before their benefits can be fully realised.
  • That investment is paid back many times over, however, as someone using dictation can typically dictate 5 times faster than the most proficient typist.

Who pays for reasonable adjustments?

The law forbids employers from making disabled workers pay for any reasonable adjustments. The employer may be able to use an existing equipment or training budget. In any event the returns made by increasing productivity and reducing days lost to sickness often far exceed the initial costs incurred.

Three people working at a row of desks with many computer screens and work related opjectsWhat is the cost of getting it wrong?

The legal risks are clear. The average Employment Tribunal Award for Disability Discrimination in 2011-12 was £22,183, with the highest award in that year of £390,871. This takes no account of settlements made before reaching tribunal or the ongoing internal costs of handling these disputes or having to recruit and train new staff.

And it's not just about direct financial costs. Many blue-chip employers are investing in Diversity and Inclusion because they understand the need to nurture vital talent in a rapidly-changing world. This potential benefit can only be achieved by identifying the needs of staff and investing in meeting those needs.

Is there a grant to cover the costs?

There is money available that may help fund your reasonable adjustments. An Access to Work grant is money for practical support to help someone do their job. It’s for people with a disability, health, or mental health condition. The money you get can pay for things like:

  • an expert assessment
  • specialist equipment
  • travel when you can’t use public transport
  • a support worker

How much an individual gets will depend on a set of circumstances about them, their other allowances, and the size of the employer. It’s only available in England, Scotland, and Wales. For more information ask at your local Jobcentre or visit the Access to Work website.

What next?

Register for our Workplace accessibility newsletter for the latest Reasonable Adjustments information, blogs and news, vital training opportunities and invitations to free live webinars learning from experts in Workplace inclusion.
However ClearTalents On Demand, developed by AbilityNet and The Clear Company, provides a free report based upon a profile created by the employee. The report can be used by employers and line managers to review the employee’s needs and will typically identify all adjustments needed without the need for a full expert assessment. Where an assessment is recommended it can be booked with a click and delivered within days wherever you are within the UK. - See more at: https://www.abilitynet.org.uk/workplace/understanding-reasonable-adjustm...
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