Everyday disability terms explained – reasonable adjustments

If you are a disabled applicant or employee, employers must make sure that you are not disadvantaged when completing a job application or carrying out a job role. This means they must make reasonable adjustments.

As a disabled applicant, you have the right to ask for changes to be made to an application form, test, interview, or assessment centre if this is something you feel you would need.  These changes are called adjustments.

As an employee, you may need: access to specialist equipment, adaptations to your role or responsibilities, changes to the working environment (this applies to those working from home), or steps made to overcome accessibility issues (be that physical accessibility issues, or digital).

Whether or not the adjustment you require is considered reasonable depends on considerations such as, will it be: 

  • Practical for the employer to make. For instance, due to the size and resources of a company, what is reasonable for one organisation may not be reasonable for another (is it practical and affordable?)
  • Effective? In other words, will the adjustment actually help you, and might it affect the safety of others?

The employer may already have the adjustment you need in place e.g. home working and flexitime policies, or be happy to make it for you even if they haven’t provided the adjustment before e.g. more time allocated for your job interview to allow for time to process the questions. But, the employer may be not familiar with what you are requesting, or not willing to make it.

Ultimately, it may be a case of negotiating with the employer to find a solution.

It’s important to note that an employer does not have a duty to provide adjustments if they have no way of knowing you have a disability (a scenario like you haven’t told them you’re disabled, and your condition is non-visible.)

There are hundreds of possible adjustments. Adjustments might make a big difference to you despite them typically being simple, and cost-effective for the employer to implement. You may require more than one adjustment, or adjustments during the recruitment process but not in the job role, or vice versa.

Here are just a few examples of reasonable adjustments in the job role:

  • Change to the start time of your working today perhaps so you can avoid rush hour, or because you’d prefer an earlier/ later start
  • Time off to attend regular medical appointments
  • If returning to work after an absence, reduced hours to help manage your workload / expectations
  • Changes to your job responsibilities, or redeployment to a more suitable role
  • Modifications to the workspace, perhaps to a quieter area or a seat by the window for more natural light         
  • More frequent, shorter breaks during the working day instead of one break for lunch
  • A designated buddy
  • Changes to how work meetings take place, e.g. agenda being sent out a week in advance

When an adjustment has a cost, the employer pays for this, but additional costs can also be covered by a grant called Access to Work (AtW). AtW is available for you to apply for if the cost of the adjustment/s is not fully covered by the employer. There shouldn’t be a circumstance in which you end up paying for an adjustment.

Click here for more everyday disability terms explained https://agcasdtg.wordpress.com/2020/08/13/everyday-disability-terms-explained/ (‘disability-friendly employers‘, and ‘disclosure‘)

Edmund Lewis, AGCAS Disability Task Group, LSE

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