Making reasonable adjustments

Employers have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to remove barriers that put disabled workers at a disadvantage compared with those who are not disabled, so they can do their work and apply for jobs in the same way as non-disabled people. This is the duty to make reasonable adjustments. Reasonable adjustments may involve amending practices or rules, changing physical features such as steps or chairs, or providing additional aids such as an adapted keyboard or text to speech software.

Many effective and practicable adjustments for disabled people often involve little or no cost or disruption and it will often be reasonable to make them. Some factors to take into account when deciding what might be regarded as a reasonable step are:

  • whether the step would be effective in preventing the disadvantage
  • how practical is it and how much disruption it might cause
  • the financial or other costs of making the adjustment, given the financial or other resources available
  • whether financial assistance is available to make the adjustment, for example through the Government’s Access to Work scheme.

Example: rest breaks

A presenter employed by an independent production company has a disability which requires her to take rest breaks every couple of hours. If she does not, she will be more likely to suffer a debilitating flare-up of her condition. The producer is concerned about the shooting schedule and decides that it would be fair for everyone to have a rule that there should be no rest breaks for any member of the team.

This may well be a failure to make reasonable adjustments for the presenter as it puts her at a substantial disadvantage (risk of exacerbation of her treatment and debilitation) compared to others who do not share her disability. However, if providing rest breaks would make the production unviable, this is likely to mean that this adjustment would not be reasonable so would not be legally required.

Essential requirements?

You should also think about whether specific qualifications are actually required or whether what is really needed is a particular skill level or task. Stick to making a list of what the job is designed to get done. Try not to make assumptions about who will be able to do it. Making assumptions might mean you exclude people just because of their protected characteristics, which would be the wrong approach. their application only because they have no driving licence.

Example: travel requirements

An employer specifies that a driving licence is required for a job which involves limited travel. An applicant for the job has no driving licence because of the effects of cerebral palsy. They are otherwise the best applicant for that job, they could easily and cheaply do the travelling involved other than by driving and it is likely to be a reasonable adjustment for the employer to let them do so. It would probably be discriminatory to insist on the specification and reject.