What are 'reasonable adjustments' for disabilities?


The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) offers increased protection for disabled employees in all aspects of employment.

A disability is defined by the DDA as ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.

What disabilities are included?

Disabilities include many types of physical and mental difficulties, such as blindness, a loss of mobility, or problems with memory. An employee may also be considered disabled if they suffer from a long-term illness, such as cancer or AIDS. The DDA means that an employee is still protected against discrimination, even if medical treatment, rehabilitation or disability aids have helped to correct their disability.

The DDA has defined five types of discrimination, which disabled employees may face at work. The most important provision, with regard to making the workplace suitable for the disabled employee, is the employer’s duty to carry out ‘reasonable adjustments’, which entails ensuring that the employee is not disadvantaged by the arrangements for their employment, in comparison with a non-disabled colleague.

What types of adjustments should be made?

Thus, making reasonable adjustments means that an employer should make changes to the practical and physical aspects of a job.  For example, they could:

  • Provide ramps for wheelchairs
  • Allocate a reader for a blind employee
  • Re-allocate the heavy-lifting portion of a job for an employee suffering from multiple sclerosis
  • Employers could also allow time off for medical treatment and rehabilitation, as well as providing extra training and support

When making reasonable adjustments, an employer will have to consider the effect on their business, such as the disruption that the changes may cause, their practicality, and how much the changes will cost.

If an employer refuses to make reasonable adjustments, and the disabled employee can no longer do their job, they may have grounds for claiming unfair dismissal at an Employment Tribunal, due to constructive dismissal.

If their employer fires them because they have asked for reasonable adjustments, they may have grounds for claiming compensation due to automatically unfair dismissal. A specialist employment solicitor will be able to give a disabled employee expert advice on their claim, should they wish to proceed.

If you would like to obtain legal advice on reasonable adjustments, we can put you in touch with a local specialist employment solicitor free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local employment solicitors please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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