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Reasonable adjustments are often straightforward

Employers have a duty to make 'reasonable adjustments' in the workplace where a disabled person would otherwise be put at a substantial disadvantage compared with their colleagues.

Reasonable adjustments

Whether or not an adjustment has to be made depends on how 'reasonable' it is - and that's something that will hinge on the individual circumstances of each case, and the resources of the employer.

In other words, an adjustment that's within the scope of what a multinational could afford, but well beyond the resources of a small business, might be considered reasonable for one, but unreasonable for the other.

But many adjustments are straightforward and easy to carry out - particularly if there's been a little lateral thinking about how an accommodation can be reached.

Reallocation and taking a new approach

A straightforward, but sometimes overlooked adjustment is to reallocate tasks that a disabled person may find difficult, such as phone-answering for people with hearing loss.

Workers with depression could be moved to non-frontline roles, if, for example, they were struggling to cope with dealing with the public.

Changing the place or position of work could make all the difference. Those using a wheelchair may benefit from a desk on the ground floor.

For those who become disabled, employers may be able to make a phased return to work through flexible time or job sharing. They might be able to find alternative work, a new role, or swap jobs with a colleague.

New equipment, facilities and training

Reasonable adjustments could include provision of new equipment, such as a special keyboard for someone with arthritis, or a stool for a retail assistant standing behind a counter.

Physical changes to the working environment might include a wheelchair ramp, or an audio message in an office lift to signal which floor it is on.

Other reasonable adjustments could be to allow for regular breaks or refreshment facilities for someone whose condition demands it.

Appropriate training and mentoring is also considered a reasonable adjustment. This could be for a particular piece of equipment used by a disabled person, or training on how to make the workplace more accommodating for people with disabilities.

Mentors could help in a number of ways, for instance, by helping to rebuild the confidence of someone who has been away from work for a long period due to a disability.

Acas publications and services

Acas provides information on employers' obligations to avoid Disability discrimination, and has advice on Equality and discrimination to promote diversity and protect employees from discrimination.

Acas experts can visit your organisation and help you ensure your equality policies are legally compliant. See Equality, Diversity & Inclusion: how Acas can help.

Practical training is also available on Disability discrimination issues.

For free, impartial advice on any employment relations issue, visit Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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