Employer obligation to make reasonable adjustments
In a recent survey it has been established that employers are not forthcoming or proactive in assessing and implementing reasonable adjustments in the workplace. In The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023 by Business Disability Forum (BDF), over 1,500 disabled workers and 400 managers were surveyed. The results were rather shocking whereby more than half (58 per cent) said getting the adjustments they needed was down to how assertive and confident they were to ask for that support.
More shockingly 12 per cent stated that they were waiting in excess of a year before any reasonable adjustment was made.
Employers should be aware that an unreasonably delayed process when it comes to providing reasonable adjustments can be found to be a breach of the protections afforded to those with a disability and could result in compensation being awarded.
In addition to the challenges faced by those requiring adjustments the data also revealed that disabled people still faced other challenges with bullying and harassment being reported as a main issue along with limited promotion opportunities.
Equality Act protection
The Equality Act 2010 provides protection for employees who have a disability, and where an employer has a provision, criterion or practice which puts a disabled employee at a substantial disadvantage compared to a non-disabled employee, an employer must take reasonable steps to avoid the disadvantage.
Prior to the introduction of the Equality Act a similar obligation was contained in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
Making adjustments is a legal requirement and employers should be establishing protocols and management training to ensure that the legal requirements are not only being recognised but implemented.
Reasonable adjustments need not be costly or time consuming
Employers are often under the impression that reasonable adjustments are costly and time consuming and it is perception that often causes delays and inaction within the workplace. However, with new initiatives and technology advancement the reality is that many adjustments are in fact low cost and quick to implement.
A particularly interesting finding is that many managers were frustrated at having their ‘hands tide’ by bureaucracy within their own organisation with 19% of managers said it was easy to put adjustments in place for their staff, due to complex and disjointed processes in their organisation.
Quite often it is easy to point the finger at management for mismanaging required adjustments and cultural inclusion but what is becoming clear is that many organisational issues around the topic start from the top down and an overhaul of leadership attitude and operational approach is required to empower managers to make the changes needed.
What has emerged despite the wider awareness of protections afforded to those under the equality act is that reasonable adjustments are just one challenge facing employees, the survey established that disabled employees were still facing significant barriers in the workplace due to entrenched perceptions about ability and competence and therefore, were not provided with the same level of opportunity as other colleagues.
Many of those surveyed stated they did not believe that the organisation they worked for genuinely believed in inclusivity and efforts to practice inclusivity were little more than marketing slogans and a PR campaign. An organisation an only become truly inclusive when embraced by the leadership which will promote a diverse workforce.
What can employers do?
Employers need to embrace true inclusivity with leadership understanding of what it truly means to remove barriers in the workplace.
Employers should make real attempts to not only understand how a disability affects a person’s life as a whole and not only in the workplace.
Another action point is that employers need to accept that a disability or condition will always require management despite reduction in disability related barriers and this will require consistent management throughout the life cycle of the employee. Further positive attitudes towards access and inclusion needs to be promoted across the organisation where staff and managers are empowered to challenge outdated views or insensitive language or non-inclusive behaviours towards those that are disabled.
Most importantly non-inclusive practises and behaviours should be challenged from the top down to change the culture and decision-making process towards disabilities.
We can help you
We can help you with reasonable adjustments and cultural change in your organisation so please do not hesitate to contact us.