What are reasonable adjustments for disability?

My daughter has been working with her company for several years and has a disability – which her workplace knows about – which means she has to have lots of time off. Her condition has progressed and now requires weekly treatment. She has recently had an HR meeting and they have said that she is not allowed to take any more time off over the next six months or it could lead to dismissal. She is due to have several more treatments and has certificates from her doctors. In the meeting HR have decided she can continue to work her  hours but have Fridays off as needed for her treatment. That means working compressed hours and she struggles to work eight-hour days at the moment. We have spoken to both Citizens Advice and ACAS who both have mentioned the Equality Act and also the extended working hours being detrimental to her health. She has been given a reduced hours certificate from her doctor saying she should only work four-six hours daily maximum….The question is, how does this work with regard to her current contract? Can she have her contracted time reduced temporarily?

Employee Rights Employment Equality Job Businessman Corporate Co - shift patterns

 

Employees who are capable of being classed as disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 are afforded protection from unfavourable treatment by their employer. There are number of forms of disability discrimination, including one which is known as a ‘failure to make reasonable adjustments’. Employers who are aware that an employee is disabled have a legal duty to consider the implementation of reasonable adjustments as means of both supporting an employee in the workplace and accommodating their condition and the effects of it. There is no fixed list of what can be said to constitute ‘reasonable adjustments’ and it will depend upon the specific facts of each case as to what adjustments could be categorised as being reasonable. Examples of potentially reasonable adjustments include: reduced or adjusted working hours; additional time off to attend hospital appointments; adjustments to or deviations from standard absence management policies and physical workplace adjustments.

In your daughter’s case if she is indeed capable of being classed as a disabled person for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and her employer is aware of this fact then the employer should be considering whether there are any reasonable adjustments which should be implemented in her case. Whilst the employer is obliged to consider reasonable adjustments and implement them where it is reasonable and appropriate to do so, there is no obligation for automatic and/or permanent implementation of all possible adjustments. An employer is not obliged to implement any adjustments which are not reasonable or proportionate and each employer’s position will be different. From what you have said it sounds like the employer is looking at the concept of reasonable adjustments and that they are exploring an adjusted working pattern. If your daughter does not consider that the adjustments which are being proposed are sufficient or appropriate to her circumstances then she is entitled to confirm this and explain why. Similarly, if your daughter wants to propose other adjustments for consideration then she is entitled to do so.

Employers and employees should work together to try and find reasonable adjustments that are workable but, ultimately, if the employer is unable to accommodate any particular adjustment and they have a legitimate basis to rely on, then they do not have to do so. Employers are entitled to bring the employment of disabled employees to an end on the grounds of ill-health capability and there will be no discrimination on grounds of a failure to make reasonable adjustments if they can show that they have considered them, albeit unsuccessfully.

*Charlotte Geesin is Legal Director of Howarths, a Yorkshire based, award-winning Employment Law, HR, Business Immigration and Health & Safety provider for SMEs across the UK. 



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