Following the introduction of the Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES), there is an increasing focus on how NHS employers can improve the career and workplace experiences of disabled staff.
A key way in which employers can support all disabled staff is through careful consideration of the individuals needs when implementing any reasonable adjustments in the workplace.
Employers have a legal duty under the Equality Act 2010, to implement reasonable adjustments in the workplace. Under the legislation, employers must make reasonable adjustments where disabled staff would otherwise be put at a substantial disadvantage compared with non-disabled colleagues. Employers cannot legally justify a failure to comply with a duty to make a reasonable adjustment.
It’s important that employers take appropriate steps to removing, reducing or preventing any barriers that may negatively impact on disabled colleagues and job applicants.
More detailed information on legal responsibilities can be found on our understanding the legal duty for reasonable adjustments webpage.
Whilst it is important to consider the legal context, putting in place some simple adjustments can have a positive impact on the wellbeing, experience and performance of the workforce.
Workplace adjustments can make an organisation a more attractive place to work and can contribute to the development of inclusive working environments and cultures by:
- Helping disabled staff to feel more valued and supported in their work and in working towards their career aspirations.
- Improving employee engagement and staff experience, which in turn will increase staff retention.
- Providing higher levels of productivity and reducing levels of sickness absence.
- Reducing levels of harassment, bullying and abuse (disabled staff experience greater levels compared to non-disabled staff).
- Increasing understanding amongst senior leaders, managers and colleagues about disability equality and inclusion in the workplace, which in turn, will help improve patient care and outcomes.
What is reasonable?
When considering if an adjustment is reasonable, employers should think about:
- how effective the change will be in removing, reducing or preventing the disadvantage (what someone may otherwise experience if the adjustment was not to be made)
- the practicality of making the adjustment
- the cost of the adjustment
- the employer’s resources and size
- the availability of financial support.
As no two employers are the same, what may be reasonable for one employer, may not be for another. Regardless of these differences, the ultimate aim is to remove or reduce any substantial disadvantage that a disabled person may experience in recruitment or within the workplace.
Employers should use every opportunity to ask their employees whether they need any adjustments, this can be done through one to one meetings, appraisals and when staff return to work from absence.
The cost should be factored in to decisions as to whether an adjustment is reasonable or not. Most reasonable adjustments cost less than £100, whilst many will cost nothing at all, and simply require a change to a process or a policy.
Where costs are higher, assistance is available through the Access to Workscheme, which reimburses the costs of equipment, adaptations or support worker services. Organisations should familiarise themselves with the scheme and the benefits it can bring to both the employee and the organisation.
The importance of having a reasonable adjustments policy
Organisations should ensure they provide clear guidance and have a comprehensive and practical reasonable adjustments policy which outlines processes, the support available and the role of different functions such as HR, occupational health and IT.
Many organisations have policies in place, some specific to reasonable adjustments and some linked to absence or wellbeing policies, see the following examples:
Employers may also want to consider introducing a disability or health passport which allows individuals to easily record information about their condition, any reasonable adjustments they may have in place and any difficulties they face. The passport helps to ensure there is a clear record and can be used with new line managers to explain what is needed in the workplace to help them carry out their role.
It's also worthwhile using the support that your local occupational health team can offer to help improve staff wellbeing within your organisation.
Good practice examples and further information
Visit our reasonable adjustments examples and resources web page which showcases a number of short videos highlighting good practice examples from NHS organisations. On this page you can also access a list of organisations and resources that can provide further support.