Reasonable adjustments

The Equality Act as described in this government guidance puts an obligation on the employers to must make reasonable adjustments to make sure workers with disabilities, or physical or mental health conditions, aren’t substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs.

This applies to all workers, including trainees, apprentices, contract workers and business partners.

Further guidance is available from the government, Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) at your local Jobcentre Plus office, or the Disability Employment Service if you’re in Northern Ireland., from Access to Work scheme and Equality and Human Rights Commission

Prior to requesting reasonable adjustments it is advisable to read our employment page with sections on the Equality Act and on Autism and Neurodivergent conditions as disabilities.

The DARE reasonable adjustments toolkit

This section draws primarily from DARE report on reasonable adjustments by Heasman, et all (2020). https://dareuk.org/dare-adjustments-toolkit

This resource contains a structured approach and a 9 question framework of identifying and implementing reasonable adjustments. It also contains a comprehensive list of reasonable adjustments from the experience of neurodivergent respondents to the DARE study.

This is the digest of the key points from the report.

In spite of need only less than half the responded had their reasonable adjustments accepted and implemented well.

The main issues with reasonable adjustments are three-fold:

  1. Identification of suitable adjustments
  2. Implementation of adjustments
  3. Consequences of non-implementation on the neurodivergent employee

The problem with identification of reasonable adjustments are :

  • Lack of knowledge and  information  and
  • Lack of understanding of support needs by the employer
  • Placing the burden on the employee

‘Placing the burden of responsibility of identifying adjustments upon neurodivergent individuals who themselves may lack the communication skills required to introspect or speak up about concerns’.

Challenges reported with implementing reasonable adjustments:

  • Stigma
  • Adjustments not keeping up with changes over time
  • It is unclear whom to talk to, which provokes anxiety
  • Refusal

‘Adjustments being refused, which was reported by participants for various reasons, including in cases where the line-manager explained the adjustment would impact other employees.’

‘Participants felt that managers and employees often differ as to whether an adjustment is seen as “reasonable”, reflecting ambiguity and potential inconsistency in adherence to the Equality Act 2010’ (Heasman et all, 2020, https://dareuk.org/dare-adjustments-toolkit) .

Consequences of poor implementation of reasonable adjustments affect:

  • Employee wellbeing;
  • Employee retention;
  • Legal processes where employees have been dismissed and reasonable adjustments have not been provided.

How to identify reasonable adjustments

The report notes that managers often don’t have the information and understanding necessary to identify reasonable adjustments

This can be particularly problematic if there is not centralised process and structured approach to communication and decision about making reasonable adjustments.

Often the onus is put on the employee to identify the reasonable adjustments and speak up about their concerns. Understandably many neurodivergent individuals do not have the information, experience and skills to identify and advocate for their own adjustments.

Heasman et all propose an extensive list of possible adjustments that respondents of their study have reported:

Structured framework

Authors propose a framework to structure the process of identifying and implementing the reasonable adjustments.

First the authors propose to distinguish possible adjustments in three types:

  • Adjustments to job role and management processes (including communication)
  • Adjustments to physical space and equipment
  • Adjustments to social/cultural practices within the organisation

Second, it would be helpful to clarify the areas of needs, which play an important part in the success of adjustments:

  1. Physical mobility and access – to make workspaces and tasks accessible.
  2. Social – to reduce difficulties in social situations.
  3. Cognitive –e.g. processing times, memory and organisation skills.
  4. Sensory.
  5. Mental health and wellbeing.
  6. Skill and experience – “to recognise the extent to which neurodivergent people may have been previously disadvantaged by the education system/prior work experiences. Such adjustments involve establishing a targeted structure for supporting the growth of skills and experience”, i.e. training, mentoring, promotions.

Third, the intended outcomes of reasonable adjustments

For example, some adjustments could minimise discomfort while other could improve focus, some adjustments like regular meeting with the manger could help to align priorities, agree on next steps, improve the organisation and reduce anxiety. Facilitating transitions emerged in Heasman et all report as one of important outcomes of reasonable adjustments.

Clarity and agreement on the intended outcomes are also important for the acceptance bu managers and the effectiveness of the adjustment a they helps to demonstrate how an adjustment makes a difference. We think this factor should be extensively discussed with the management to come to a joined clear understanding of the intended purpose of the adjustment and the difference it could make to the employee and benefit the organisation.

Implementation of reasonable adjustments

“Implementation refers to embedding an adjustment within organisational practice so that the adjustment is sustainable over time and tailored to individual needs and working patterns.”

“Successfully implementing an adjustment requires more than accurate identification of support needs, it also requires an iterative and continuous approach to evaluating effectiveness and understanding how to improve support.”

For successful implementation of reasonable adjustments, it is important to consider

  • Establishing a structured clear process of communication and decision making.
  • Proactively addressing the resource implications by for example drawing as much as possible on good business practices and methods that improve productivity for all, implementing quick wins and reporting on their success to build management confidence with adjustments.
  • Embedding the adjustments sustainability over time by for example informing and training new people in employees needs and adjustments. Iteratively addressing the changing needs as the role or the workplace changes.

Overall, Heasman et all proposed the following 9 question framework for requesting reasonable adjustments

DARE report by Heasman et all (2020) contains a helpful bank of possible adjustments for neurodivergent emploees: DARE Adjustments Toolkit