Reasonable adjustments

Legal duty to make reasonable adjustments

Under the Equality Act 2010 an employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to a policy, criterion or practice where a disabled person is placed at a significant disadvantage because of their disability. 

The trigger to the duty is where an employer knows (or ought to know) that an employee or job applicant has a disability; and the employee suffers a substantial disadvantage in comparison with a non-disabled person.

The key word here is ‘reasonable’.  Various factors are taken into account in determining whether a proposed adjustment is likely to be considered reasonable.

  • The extent to which the step would be effective in overcoming the disadvantage. Would the adjustment enable the employee to carry out their duties (even if some minor duties have to be reallocated)?
  • The extent to which the step is practicable;
  • Financial and other costs and disruption;  it might be considered reasonable to spend at least as much on retaining an employee as might be spent on recruiting and training a new employee.  The extent of resources of the whole organisation;
  • The availability of other assistance;
  • The nature of the activities and the size of the employer;
  • The extent to which the employee is willing to co-operate.

As a good employer we would in any case be looking at providing all employees, including disabled ones, with the support they need to carry out their role at the university.

Determining appropriate support

A partnership approach should be taken to deciding what support should be put in place for an individual.  People with a similar condition may have difference working style and different preferences. Individual and manager should discuss the difficulties experienced by the individual because of their disability, and how these might be overcome. 

If the individual and manager can agree appropriate support measures they may be implemented immediately.  If advice is needed, it may be sought from the Staff Disability Advisor, caroline.moughton@admin.ox.ac.uk Tel. 01865 (2)80687.  A management referral to the University Occupational Health Service may also be required if medical advice is needed.

A trial period is always a good idea, to determine whether a reasonable adjsutment is effective.

Managers of disabled staff should record any reasonable adjustments that are agreed, and review them regularly (perhaps in the annual personal development review).  Are any changes needed? People’s disability and health change, and so do job requirements. 

Funding

Many reasonable adjustments can be made at little or no cost. An individual’s department would be expected to meet the costs of any reasonable adjustment.  External funding may also be available through Access to Work (ATW).  There is no central University fund for disabled staff.  An individual is not expected to contribute to meeting the costs of any support needs at work.

Examples of reasonable adjustments

Here are some examples of support that may be considered, depending on the individual’s disability, the nature of their role and business requirements.

Adjustments to the work environment

  • Rearranging desks, so that someone with a hearing impairment can see people approaching.
  • Moving someone with Asperger’s from a large open plan office to a quieter shared office.
  • Moving a printer to a low table, so that it is accessible to a wheelchair-user.
  • Moving files to shelves that can be reached more easily.

Adjustments to working arrangements

  • Agreeing working hours that suit a disabled individual e.g. a later start for someone on medication that makes it difficult to wake up; an early start for someone who wants to avoid travelling in the rush hour. 
  • Allowing an individual to attend disability-related support appointments in work time. They may be required to make up missed working hours.
  • Regular or occasional homeworking .

 Provision of aids and equipment

  • Ergonomic or assistive equipment may be recommended following a Display Screen Equipment; (DSE) assessment e.g. an ergonomic mouse, an alternative keyboard, a different chair;
  • Assistive software;
  • A digital voice recorder.

Provision of training and development

  • Training on using assistive software;
  • Workplace strategies training for an individual with dyslexia (funded by ATW);
  • A job coach.

Provision of a support worker

  • ATW may agree to pay for ongoing one-to-one support. This might include a British Sign Language Interpreter or a notetaker.
  • ATW may also pay for one-off support, such as a support worker to accompany an academic to a conference if they are unable to travel without assistance.

Changes to working practices

  • More frequent meetings with a manager may be agreed, and assistance with areas of difficulty such as planning and prioritisation.
  • Communication methods may be agreed to suit a disabled employee’s preferences such as using email rather than phone.
  • Work may be reallocated within the team.  An individual would be expected to carry out most of their job duties, with reasonable adjustments in place if needed.  Minor duties might be allocated to another team member

If reasonable adjustments can’t be made

If sufficient reasonable adjustments cannot be made in an individual’s current role, please talk to your HR manager.  Options may include redeployment to another role within the University or ill-health retirement.