Walking past my village pub this morning I noticed a new sign notifying disabled customers that a ramp was available on request. Being a cynical lawyer I assumed they had received a complaint from someone unable to navigate the step. But if you are an employer you don't want to wait until you receive a complaint before taking action. 

All employers are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments where the working environment or working arrangements place a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to people without that disability. Adjustments can be anything from altering working hours and allowing extra breaks to altering premises or modifying equipment. 

A recent survey carried out by the Business Disability Forum shows that some employers are good at making adjustments while others struggle with the whole process.  Here are a few of the main findings:

  • 44% of employees said that they had all the adjustments they needed, but 27% had requested other or alternative adjustments that were not yet in place.  
  • 29% of those taking part in the survey had decided not to request adjustments, partly because they were worried about how they would be perceived by their employer or colleagues. 
  • 73% felt that the adjustments had made a positive difference in removing some of the barriers in the workplace. However, only 19% felt their adjustments had helped to remove all barriers at work.

Getting it wrong damages the relationship between employer and employee and can also be costly to the business. Employees may go off sick and some employers report having to hire agency staff to cover the role of an employee waiting for reasonable adjustments to be made. And there is always the risk of an Employment Tribunal claim.

So what can employers do?  The most important thing is to talk to your staff about what they need and not to make assumptions about what they can and cannot do. If you identify something that needs changing then don't delay. It needn't be a complicated process. Many adjustments involve little or no cost such as changing working patterns or providing training.  There are lots of organisations ready to help employers and Access to Work can often help towards the costs of making adjustments.