Right to reasonable adjustments
If any of your employees have disabilities, or have an illness or injury that makes it difficult for them to perform the job they were employed for, they have the right to have reasonable adjustments made to enable them to work or continue to work.
This includes those who are newly disabled or whose condition worsens, and it’s down to you to make sure that these changes are made so your workplace can accommodate them, where you can.
Why are they necessary?
Making reasonable adjustments is essential in showing that you care for your employees’ wellbeing and are supportive in a difficult time for them.
In addition, if you don’t make those workplace adjustments, you could be looking at a steep fine, which could prove disastrous for your business.
Take this recent example
An employee was recently awarded €40,000 by the Labour Court, as her employer failed to provide reasonable accommodation to enable her to return to work following an accident.
The Complainant was forced to take sickness leave from her role as a special needs assistant and a part-time secretary in a school, after she suffered an accident that left her paralysed from the waist down.
When she tried to return to work, her employer declined her request after deciding that she lacked the capacity to fully undertake the duties of the role.
The employer based his decision on a risk assessment from an occupational health consultant, who declared the Complainant medically unfit to perform all of the duties of a special needs assistant.
However, the school’s principal had already told the consultant that the school was not prepared to provide the accommodation necessary to allow the Complainant to return to work in any event.
The Labour Court held that the employer failed to discharge its duty to provide the Complainant with reasonable accommodation to allow her to return to work and awarded the Complainant €40,000 by way of compensation.
What are your responsibilities?
If any of your employees do suffer a disability, cases like this confirm that you need to fully consider all options in assessing whether your business can accommodate their return to work.
The reasonable adjustments you should make will vary in each case. In some cases, you will need to make physical changes to your workplace, for instance:
- altering, or providing more appropriate workstation equipment, such as chairs, desks or computers;
- providing written material in larger fonts or Braille;
- installing visual as well as audible alarms; or
- additional facilities.
However, sometimes all that is needed to accommodate a disabled employee is a change to their working arrangements, for example:
- flexibility in hours;
- allowing absence for treatment or rehabilitation;
- providing additional training;
- amending their duties; or
- transferring them to an existing vacancy in your business.
Any adjustments you make should be “reasonable”. This means that while you would be expected to make some alterations, these should be within your company’s means, and in some cases it may be that the employee simply won’t be able to perform their duties, no matter what you try.
Always try to consult the employee and discuss their needs to decide on any options available.
Always make the effort
Ultimately, if a worker can show that there were barriers you should have identified and reasonable adjustments you could have made, they can bring a claim against you, and you may be ordered to pay them compensation as well as make the reasonable adjustments.
Finally, remember that the right to reasonable adjustments also applies to anyone applying for a job in your business. For instance, make sure that you have wheelchair access to any interview rooms.