What are reasonable adjustments in schools?
You may have heard of the term ‘reasonable adjustments’ but might be unsure how to request an adjustment at your school.
ACAS explains a reasonable adjustment is a change to remove or reduce the effect of:
- An employee’s disability so they can do their job
- A job applicant’s disability when applying for a job
The reasonable adjustment could be to:
- The workplace
- The way things are done
- Get someone to help the employee or job applicant
In this article, we look at how to request reasonable adjustments, examples of reasonable adjustments and where to look for further information.
We have also written another article outlining what you need to know about the Equality Act when working in schools.
When does a school consider reasonable adjustments?
By law, an employer must consider making reasonable adjustments when:
- They know, or could be expected to know, an employee or job applicant has a disability
- An employee or job applicant with a disability asks for adjustments
- An employee with a disability is having difficulty with any part of their job
- An employee’s absence record, sickness record or delay in returning to work is because of or linked to their disability
The employer must make the changes if they’re reasonable.
What is reasonable?
What’s ‘reasonable’ will depend on each situation. The employer needs to consider carefully if the adjustment:
- Will remove or reduce the disadvantage for the person with the disability
- Is practical to make
- Is affordable by the employer or business
- Could harm the health and safety of others
What can schools consider changing
The employer must look at what they can do to reduce or remove the disadvantage for the person with a disability, such as:
- Removing something from the workplace, for example bright lights above the employee’s workstation
- Providing something in the workplace, for example an accessible car parking space
- Providing extra or specialised equipment
To help see what adjustments are needed, the employer and employee could agree to get an occupational health assessment.
What are examples of reasonable adjustments?
Examples of reasonable adjustments can include:
- Arranging for an interview to be held on the ground floor for a job applicant who uses a wheelchair
- Replacing a desk chair with one designed for an employee who has a disability affecting their back
- Giving more one-to-one support to help prioritise the work of an employee suffering from anxiety
- A phased return to work for an employee who’s been on long-term sick leave because of their disability
- Allowing more frequent breaks for someone with diabetes to get the right amount of food or drink throughout the day
- Giving more time for someone with dyslexia to do any written or reading tests that are part of the interview process
See more examples of reasonable adjustments on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.
Asking for reasonable adjustments
If an employee or job applicant finds there’s a disadvantage because of their disability, it’s best for them to talk to the employer as soon as possible about what they need.
Nobody has to tell an employer they have a disability.
But sometimes an employer might need to understand any effects of the disability on workplace health and safety.
An employee who needs a reasonable adjustment should talk with their manager or employer.
It’s a good idea to meet so:
- The employee can explain their situation
- The employer can understand how they can help
- They can discuss and agree on possible adjustments together
It’s also a good idea to put anything agreed in writing.
Employers should ask all job applicants if they need reasonable adjustments for any part of the recruitment process.
The employer must consider making reasonable adjustments for the recruitment process if the:
- Job applicant asks for reasonable adjustments
- Job applicant says they have a disability
- Employer knows, or could be expected to know, of the disability
It’s against the law for employers to ask applicants if they have a disability.
Offering the job
If the employer wants to offer the job to an applicant they’ve made reasonable adjustments for, by law they can only ask the following questions:
- If the reasonable adjustments are suitable
- If the applicant can do essential parts of the job and, in principle only, whether reasonable adjustments might be needed
- In very rare circumstances, if the applicant has a specific disability that’s an ‘occupational requirement’
The employer could also ask if there’s anything they can do to improve their workplace through positive action for people with disabilities.
The employer must be careful not to discriminate if they ask these questions.
After offering the job, the employer can ask the successful applicant:
- What reasonable adjustments they need to do the job and progress at work
- If necessary, other appropriate health-related questions depending on the nature of the job
What happens if your school does not make any reasonable adjustments?
If the employer believes a suggested adjustment is unreasonable, they should talk with the employee or job applicant and:
- Explain why they think the adjustment is not possible
- Try and find another option
If an employer does not make reasonable adjustments for an employee or job applicant with a disability, it counts as discrimination under the law.
We’ve written another article which outlines details on what you could do if your job offer is withdrawn and you believe you have been discriminated against.
If you are an Edapt subscriber and you feel you have been discriminated against, you can contact us for further advice and support.
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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
While Edapt has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence. If you are an Edapt subscriber with an employment-related issue, please contact us and we will be able to refer you to one of our caseworkers.