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Making changes in the workplace for staff with disabilities

As we head through life some of us will unfortunately suffer a life-changing incident that will leave us with a disability or a long lasting physical or mental health condition. This could be because of a traumatic event such as an accident or medical negligence. As a business, it is your duty to ensure the welfare of your employees and this extends to if their life changes as a result of such an incident. According to Work Accident specialists First4Lawyers, the law states that you must make reasonable adjustments to the workplace or to employees’ working hours so that they can do their job as well as somebody without a disability. This also applies to when somebody who applies for a job has a physical or mental disability.

What is a reasonable adjustment?

A reasonable adjustment is a change to reduce or remove the effect of an individual’s disability. The reasonable adjustment could be to the workplace, such as layout and access to the building, the way things are done, such as working practices or policies, or to get someone to help the employee.

When must you make reasonable adjustments?

By law an employer must consider making reasonable adjustments when:

  • You know, or could be expected to know, that an employee or job applicant has a disability.
  • An employee or job applicant with a disability asks for adjustments.
  • An employee with a disability is having difficulty with any part of their job.
  • An employee’s absence record, sickness record or delay in returning to work is delayed because of or linked to their disability.

As an employer you must also consider reasonable adjustments for anything linked to an employee’s disability. One example might be if you didn’t allow a guide dog into the building for a blind or partially sighted employee it is likely this would be discrimination.

What is reasonable?

This depends on each situation and the size of your organisation. You will need to consider if the adjustment:

  • Will remove or reduce the disadvantage for your employee with the disability.
  • Is practical to make and is affordable for your business.
  • Could harm the health and safety of others.

What sorts of things could you consider changing?

The changes that may need to be made will depend on the employee’s situation, but it could be simply doing things another way. For example, allowing somebody with social anxiety disorder to have their own desk instead of hot-desking. Other things you could do include making physical changes to the workplace, such as installing a ramp for a wheelchair user.

Another is changing the equipment somebody uses, such as providing a special keyboard for an employee who has arthritis. For people who have become disabled you could allow them to make a phased return or to carry out flexible hours. As long as the adjustment is reasonable, it is your duty to make the so that your employees are more able to do their jobs.