Understanding and implementing ‘reasonable adjustments’ is a fundamental requirement in any workforce. 

Strictly speaking, these adjustments are necessary changes aimed at reducing or eliminating disadvantages faced by employees or job applicants due to their disability and it is in this context this blog is written. However it is worth noting that if an adjustment being made for an employee is ‘reasonable’, why wouldn’t it be considered for someone who doesn’t have a disability. 

The following guidance provides valuable tips to help employers, managers and HR professionals navigate this crucial aspect of people management with understanding and empathy.

1. Embrace Reasonableness

The concept of ‘reasonableness’ is central to the idea of reasonable adjustments. This principle means adopting a fair, understanding and open-minded approach when dealing with employees or applicants with disabilities. Being reasonable is a matter of perspective and therefore difficult to define or ascertain when something is reasonable. What is or isn’t will be different every time, just because it was reasonable for one individual in an organisation doesn’t mean it will be for another.

Don’t Overfocus on Definites, embrace the vagary 

Under the Equality Act 201, you’re disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.

What is substantial, what is long term, what is a normal daily activity? It’s natural to want to put people’s conditions into neat boxes, but sometimes it can distract us from the real goal at hand. Let’s focus on the main task instead of labelling it as a ‘disability.’ 

The focus should be on understanding how the employee’s condition affects their work and what adjustments can be made to ease their challenges. It’s important to keep in mind that disabilities aren’t always visible, and many people live with hidden disabilities such as mental health conditions, chronic illnesses or neurodivergence.

2. Cultivate Proactivity

Rather than waiting for an employee or candidate to request a reasonable adjustment, it’s advisable to proactively analyse your organisation’s systems, reasonable adjustment policy and processes. 

Performing an Equality Impact Assessment can help identify potential barriers to inclusivity and trigger proactive changes that create an environment of inclusion and respect.

3. Importance of Record Keeping

Record keeping is a critical aspect of managing reasonable adjustments. 

By creating a ‘reasonable adjustments passport’ for an employee, you document the accommodations made for them. 

A reasonable adjustment passport can save the employee from needing to repeat the process if new management steps in or if their role changes within the organisation.

4. Harness Available Support

Access to Work is a public programme available to help people with physical or mental health conditions or disabilities get into or stay in work. 

Employers can utilise this scheme to support their employees better, so familiarise yourself with the eligibility criteria and grant application process.

(Eligibility criteria can be found here with grant applications being made here)

5. Benefits of an Inclusive Workforce

Promoting inclusivity and diversity within your workforce is not only a matter of compliance but also a strategic business decision.

Building Open and Inclusive Cultures

Creating an environment where everyone feels valued, respected and recognised leads to higher levels of employee engagement, productivity and retention. 

Plus, businesses that demonstrate commitment to diversity and inclusivity are more attractive to a wider range of clients, customers and potential employees.

6. Encourage Open Dialogue

It’s crucial to foster an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their needs. Confidentiality and sensitivity are key – these discussions must be handled with utmost respect for the individual’s privacy and dignity.

Encourage staff to share their points of view, experiences and suggestions openly and honestly without fear. Actively listen to their input and respond with empathy. Show you value their opinions by taking feedback on board and implementing changes that make a difference in the workplace.

7. Regular Reviews are Key

Regular reviews of reasonable adjustments at work are crucial. As people’s health conditions can change over time, the effectiveness of the accommodations made may also vary. 

Regular check-ins and open dialogue can help ensure that adjustments remain relevant and helpful.

8. Understand the Impact on Others

While maintaining the privacy of individuals who have had reasonable adjustments made, it’s equally important to be aware of the broader impact on the team. 

Changes may prompt discussions or questions from other team members, which need to be managed respectfully and thoughtfully.

9. Preventing Bullying or Harassment

Discussions around disability and reasonable adjustments at work can sometimes lead to misunderstanding or inappropriate behaviour. 

It’s critical to create an environment that does not tolerate any form of bullying or harassment. Regular training sessions, clear behavioural policies and an open-door policy for reporting concerns are all effective strategies for preventing workplace discrimination.

Implementing reasonable adjustments at work isn’t just about legal compliance; it’s about fostering an inclusive workplace that values diversity. 

These adjustments can significantly enhance the work environment and performance of your workforce. 

They underscore a company’s commitment to equal opportunity, positively affecting the organisation’s reputation. By understanding these top tips, employers and HR professionals can better navigate the process of identifying and implementing reasonable adjustments, creating a workplace that truly supports all employees in achieving their potential.

10. Always Seek Advice

Discrimination claims can have serious repercussions for an organisation, and employees have employment protection rights from day one. Therefore, it’s essential to seek professional advice if you’re unsure about any aspect of reasonable adjustments. 

Legal advice, HR consultancies and even organisations that specialise in specific disabilities can all be valuable sources of insight and guidance.

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