What is a Reasonable Adjustment?

February 13, 2018 - Daniel Aherne

You may have heard that employers must make “reasonable adjustments” for a disabled employee. This starts at the recruitment stage and continues throughout an employee’s working life. Employees with a neurodiversity including autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and ADHD are considered disabled under the Equality Act.

Well what is a Reasonable Adjustment?

‘A reasonable adjustment is an adjustment that’s… reasonable’ comes the cry from the rafters, each time this question is asked. A chorus of confused figures will then lead the debate, as everyone expands in a different way… ‘Is it an ergonomic chair? An option for larger text on printed materials? A reduction in work hours?’

There is no definitive answer to the question ‘what is a reasonable adjustment?’ because each employee has different needs, in the context of each different role.  This means what is reasonable is different for each person, and could change when the person moves into a new role.

This all sounds very complicated. How do we find out which adjustments we should make for a specific individual in their particular role?

A very good place to start is by communicating with your neurodiverse employee to find out what they really need, rather than guessing on their behalf. You would be surprised at the number of employers that haven’t talked to their disabled member of staff!  And always remember that the smallest detail to you can make the world of difference to someone else.

Consider booking a place on our “Neurodiversity Works” Course to help your organisation understand what difficulties your neurodiverse employee’s may be facing, what their strengths are and what adjustments could be useful.

You could also consider a workplace assessment. This involves a consultant evaluating the employee’s strengths and difficulties in the context of their role. You receive a comprehensive report outlining relevant reasonable adjustments to enable your neurodiverse employee to reach their full potential.

Finally be creative and open minded – the best adjustments are often logical and straightforward, but require some ‘out of the box’ thinking, as they are a bit different from how your organisation has always done things.

“Finally be creative and open minded – the best adjustments are often logical and straightforward”

Will these adjustments be expensive? How will other staff react?

Reasonable adjustments for employees with Neurodiversity are not costly and are often free! The cost will certainly not be prohibitive.

Reasonable adjustments are often a simple change in working life that have little impact on other employees, but greatly improve your neurodiverse employee’s productivity and performance.  It could be as simple as changing break times or adapting the format of a meeting.

Many employees with a neurodiversity have recently started asking why their request to ensure that they can carry out their work duties could effectively be considered unreasonable? Perhaps we should start using the term “adjustment” rather than “reasonable adjustment”

“Perhaps we should start using the term “adjustment” rather than “reasonable adjustment”.

OK I think I have a better idea of where we can start with these adjustments…

If you’re still uncertain, consider this – we once worked with an autistic employee at an organisation with very bright lighting. Due to sensory sensitivities, the bright lighting was causing discomfort and meant the employee couldn’t work to their usual high standard. An adjustment needed to be made.

Do you think we a) switched the lights off, so no-one in the office could see what was going on, or b) removed the bulb above the affected employee’s desk, helping him at no detriment to anyone else? If you think the answer is a), you need to do a little more research, if you chose b) however, you’re a step closer to understanding how practical, small changes can improve an employee’s workplace environment and increase productivity.

“small changes can improve an employee’s workplace environment and increase productivity”.

To learn more about making adjustments in your workplace contact Adjust for more information and advice.