Reasonable adjustments: know your rights

If you have a disability or a long-term condition, your employer has a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments

Know your rights
Support, guidance and updates on employment and trade union issues

What is the law on reasonable adjustments?

The duty applies to all disabled workers, including contract workers and agency workers. The duty also applies to apprentices, job applicants and students on work placements.  

It can apply if you are self-employed and are required to do the work personally. There is no minimum qualifying service.

However, you must have a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act (Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland). This means that you have: 

A physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

The duty covers obvious or visible disabilities as well as invisible disabilities including neurodiverse conditions such as autism, dyslexia, or dyspraxia. 

Employers’ obligations apply whether you work for the NHS or a private provider. 

In England, Wales and Scotland this duty is set out in the Equality Act 2010, with equivalent legislation covering Northern Ireland.

In addition to their obligations to staff, NHS employers and services have an obligation to provide reasonable adjustments to patients and carers, and to avoid putting disabled person(s) at a substantial disadvantage to people who are not disabled when accessing NHS services. 

What sort of adjustments can I ask for?

An adjustment can be anything that removes or reduces the difficulty you are experiencing. 

Examples include:

  • special interview arrangements
  • reallocating duties
  • changing or reducing hours
  • changes to staff training
  • providing specialist equipment

What is reasonable?

Your employer should implement any adjustments in a timely fashion. How long this will take depends on their resources and the type of adjustments needed. Employers only need to go so far as is ‘reasonable’ when making adjustments.

Factors that can help decide what is reasonable include: 

  • how practical they are
  • the employer’s size and resources
  • costs and disruption
  • the effect on other workers
  • the availability of external support, such as advice from Access to Work.

It is the employer’s responsibility to pay for any adjustments. They are not allowed to require the disabled person to pay for them. 

If your employer has failed to make reasonable adjustments, it may be possible to bring a claim in an employment tribunal. 

Contact your CSP workplace reps or contact the CSP enquiries team as soon as possible after any employer refusal; and better yet work closely with your CSP rep when asking for a reasonable adjustment. 

What support is available from the CSP?

In time for Disability History month the CSP has produced a reasonable adjustment resource for members and trade union reps: 

It contains:

  • an overview of the legal context, and NHS policies and procedures
  • guidance for CSP members returning to work after developing a disability, or starting a new job which might throw up problems because of a disability
  • key action points for CSP stewards and health and safety reps when conducting casework or negotiating policies & procedures

We are working with the CSP’s DisAbility network to build case studies showing how CSP reps and members have approached reasonable adjustments in their workplace.  

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