Reasonable Adjustments – What You Need To Know


Employers have a statutory duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees suffering from a disability. This article provides a high-level outline as to the various considerations that employers should bear in mind if they are met with a request for a reasonable adjustment.

What is a disability?

The Equality Act 2017 provides us with a statutory definition of disability. A person is considered disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the individual’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

With the exception of cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis, where an individual is automatically deemed to be disabled, an individual must be able to prove that they meet every element of the statutory definition in order to progress a claim of disability discrimination.

What reasonable adjustments do we need to make?

Under section 21 of the Equality Act 2017, an employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees who are disabled. A reasonable adjustment is a positive step that an employer should take in order to ensure that disabled employees can access and progress in employment. This may require the adjustment of:

  1. A provision, criterion or practice which applies to all staff but puts a disabled employee at a substantial disadvantage;
  2. A physical feature that puts a disabled employee at a substantial disadvantage; or
  3. Access to auxiliary aids.

Reasonable adjustments can take all sorts of forms and the adjustment that should be made will vary depending on the factual circumstances of each case. Examples however may include:

  • Flexibility as regards working from home;
  • Temperature control;
  • Installation of ramps/lifts;
  • Adjustment as to the recording of medical absences; or
  • Provision of specialist equipment such as larger screens or adapted keyboards.

How do we know what is reasonable?

The reasonableness of any adjustment (or failure to make such adjustment) will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The Tribunal will take into account the size and administrative resources of an employer when determining if the adjustments made were sufficient or if further adjustments should reasonably have been made. Therefore, what may be considered a reasonable adjustment for a large multi-jurisdictional company may not be considered reasonable for a small, locally-run business.

When an employer receives a request for a reasonable adjustment, they must consider carefully the practicality of implementing the adjustment as well as the probability that the disadvantage to the disabled employee will be reduced or removed. Employers should always be mindful to what would be considered reasonable in the circumstances.

Whilst cost is a factor in any commercial decision, employers will rarely be able to rely on costs alone as a basis for the refusal of a reasonable adjustment. However, where an employer can prove that the cost of a proposed adjustment would cause damage to the business (and therefore is not reasonable), thought should be given to any alternative adjustments that may reduce the disadvantage suffered by the disabled employee. The Equality Act 2017 prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to pay (partially or in full) for the reasonable adjustment they are requesting.


Reasonable adjustments should be considered a useful tool by an employer rather than a barrier to business, and the rationale for implementing reasonable adjustments is ultimately about keeping valuable skills and talent within your business and enabling those who may otherwise be put at a substantial disadvantage to participate and progress in a business to the best of their abilities.

Lizzie Beard



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