Return to the workplace: Making adjustments to the workplace for employees with a disability

Return to the workplace: Making adjustments to the workplace for employees with a disability

As restrictions ease and more and more people return to work, it is essential that employers continue to ensure the workplace is both safe and free from discrimination for all employees. Employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate employees with a disability to ensure they do not suffer a disadvantage that non-disabled employees do not. In this article, we look at some key matters employers should consider.

What do employers need to consider when looking at reasonable adjustments?

The aim of making reasonable adjustments should be to remove, as far as possible, any substantial disadvantage faced by a disabled worker that a non-disabled worker does not experience. When making decisions about reasonable adjustments, all relevant circumstances should be considered, including:

  • How practical the adjustment is
  • The cost of the adjustment
  • How effective the adjustment would be in reducing the disadvantage experienced by the disabled employee.
  • The size of your organisation and its resources

What types of adjustments should employers consider?

Broadly speaking, there are three types of adjustments you may wish to look at.

Changes to policies and procedures

The pandemic has introduced new models of working in most sectors, and many people have spent months working from home. If disabled employees have been working from home and you have found this to be successful, you may wish to consider whether allowing them to continue working from home would be more suitable for their wellbeing. For example, the physical workplace could put their safety at risk if they have been unable to be vaccinated, or they may be nervous about returning. Of course, if you have a business need for particular employees to attend your place of work, then that will take priority – the key is having these issues in mind and then making informed decisions.

Adjustments to help disabled employees with physical barriers in the workplace

While your workplace may have been suitable for disabled employees in the past, social distancing measures may mean substantial changes to the layout of your operations. You should ensure that disabled employees are not negatively impacted by things such as access to a temporary office, layout changes that make it difficult for them to move around, or access to disabled toilets or lifts. You may for example have increased parking availability now that more employees are working from home and should consider which spots are allocated to whom and on what basis.

Providing extra equipment to help an employee carry out their role

A good example is where a disabled employee finds it easier to work from home. In this case, employers may need to provide equipment to allow them to do so most effectively. For example, providing a laptop or software. Another example is that where you have an employee who is deaf, you should supply their co-workers with transparent face shields, which will allow the employee to lip read.

The most important step employers can take is to actively consider the needs of their disabled employees. Those with a disability may have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and the restrictions and could have different needs when returning to the workplace. Of course, this needs to be balanced against the needs of your business and certain adjustments or requests will go beyond what is reasonable – an employer is only under a duty to consider “reasonable” adjustments.

If you would like assistance with any of the issues above whether it is developing and implementing a policy or managing an individual case, please do feel free to contact us on 01752 663295.

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