You may need to make alterations and changes to physical features to accommodate disabled employees. If the physical feature puts disabled employees at a disadvantage compared with your non-disabled employees, you must adjust it to remove or reduce its impact. These alterations are called reasonable adjustments.
Making reasonable adjustments for employees
These steps could include, where reasonable, making structural or physical changes to premises, such as:
- widening doorways to allow a wheelchair to pass through easily
- replacing steps with ramps
- relocating light switches and door handles for someone who has difficulty in reaching
- putting in place audio-visual fire alarms
- providing accessible toilet facilities for disabled employees
These steps also involve allowing the person to work in a more easily accessible place, such as by:
- transferring a wheelchair user's workstation from an inaccessible upper floor to the ground floor
- allowing a disabled job applicant to be interviewed in an accessible room
- providing specially modified equipment, such as a special keyboard adapted for someone who has arthritis, or a telephone adapted for someone with a hearing impairment
Legal duties to make adjustments
If you are an employer, you have duties under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) not to discriminate against and to make reasonable adjustments for your disabled employees or job applicants.
The employment provisions of the DDA apply to all employers, regardless of size, except service in the armed forces.
The reasonable adjustment duties under the employment provisions are not anticipatory and therefore you are only required to consider the needs of an actual disabled employee or, in the case of the recruitment process, a disabled job applicant.
Do you need to make an adjustment to a physical feature?
You only need to make adjustments to your premises if a disabled employee would otherwise be at a substantial disadvantage to that of a non-disabled employee. Before making the adjustment, you could consider:
- the extent to which the disadvantage would be alleviated
- the cost of making the adjustment
- what financial resources your business has access to
- whether you have access to external resources to help you bear the cost
- whether adjustments have been made for other disabled employees
- how willing the disabled employee is to co-operate with any adjustment you make
Advice and support for hiring disabled people
The Access to Work (AtW) programme provides practical support to disabled people to help overcome barriers in the workplace. It can also provide help to employers.
The Job Introduction Scheme (JIS) is aimed at helping employers who are considering recruiting a disabled person but who have genuine concerns about that person's ability to manage the job because of the disability.
Workable (NI) provides supported job opportunities for disabled people who face more serious obstacles in obtaining or retaining a job, but who are able to work effectively with some support.