At Enhance the UK we provide disability awareness training to organisations in many different industries, for example; hospitality, retail, education, transport and finance. One thing we often find regardless of the industry, is the number of misconceptions employers have on reasonable adjustments. These misconceptions are harmful as they hamper not only the employment of disabled people but also how inclusive an organisation is to everyone who works for them. We decided it was time to examine these myths and set the record straight.
Myth 1– Someone needs to be registered as disabled to receive reasonable adjustments.
There is currently no such thing as a register of disabled people. There hasn’t been a requirement for one since the Disabled Person’s Employment Act of 1944, which ceased to exist in 1996 so the concept is a little outdated, I am sure you will agree!
The Equality Act states that employers must make reasonable adjustments for disabled staff members. Under the Equality Act unless someone’s condition or impairment is automatically classed as a disability or they have a progressive condition, someone is considered to have a disability if:
- They have a ‘physical or mental impairment’
- The impairment ‘has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’
Myth 2– An employee must disclose their impairment and ask for reasonable adjustments.
Firstly, the onus should not be on the employee to have to ask for adjustments. If an employer is aware that their employee is disabled they should offer reasonable adjustments. But what happens if someone doesn’t disclose they have an impairment? There isn’t a rule that someone must. Well, this is more of a grey area. If an employer could be reasonably expected to know someone is disabled and haven’t engaged with them to provide adjustments, they could find themselves in hot water. So practically, what does this mean? Our advice would be to ensure that you always ask if someone has any access requirements or need any adjustments. This shouldn’t be a one off thing during onboarding but should be part of the culture of your organisation. Do you routinely ask colleagues if they have any access requirements when scheduling meetings?
Furthermore, make sure you get time to check in with your staff, ask how they are, how they are getting on. If they are struggling or finding things difficult ask if there is anything you can provide or do to support them and engage in a conversation about this. It’s about ensuring you are having open conversations and are providing support to your staff.
Myth 3 – You should only ask people you know are disabled, if they require any adjustments.
See our answer for myth 2. Remember lots of people don’t disclose they are disabled. We have a blog on why this is and ways you can encourage people to disclosure, which is worth a read!
Myth 4– Providing adjustments is unfair and gives preferential treatment.
The intent behind supplying reasonable adjustments is not to give preferential treatment but to make sure that disabled people are not substantially disadvantaged. The focus is on equity and levelling the playing field so that everyone has a fair chance to succeed. The impact that any adjustments would make on colleagues should be taken into consideration when deciding if something is reasonable or not.
Myth 5- Reasonable adjustments are expensive and time consuming
We have left the most common myth until last!
Employers are often concerned that employing someone who is disabled will end up being expensive and time consuming. This isn’t the case. Remember most reasonable adjustments cost nothing, in face only 4% of adjustments incur a cost. Also remember it’s about what is reasonable, and the size of and the resources available to an organisation will come into this. Simply put, what’s reasonable for a small local business with a few employees to provide and a large corporation will be two different things!
There is also a scheme called Access to Work which can provided employees with a grant to pay for the support they may need. Employers will still be expected to provide adjustments though.
Would you benefit from training about reasonable adjustments? If so, get in touch