Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Guidance for staff and managers

When do you need to consider a workplace adjustment?

Workplace adjustments may be required at various stages of a disabled person’s employment, for example, at the recruitment stage, during the person’s day-to-day employment, during selection for redundancy or promotion, and during disciplinary proceedings.

Some staff will not require any adjustments for their role, but over time things change. Changes for an individual, eg their health, circumstances, or role and changes at the University policies, procedures and ways of working in the way the University works can mean that they now need an adjustment or that an existing adjustment needs to be reviewed. So all staff should review their workplace adjustments regularly to ensure they meet your needs as well as the needs of the business. As a minimum these reviews should happen:

  • On joining the University
  • When an individual changes roles or their job is substantially changed;
  • If new IT systems or equipment are introduced;
  • If there is a change of location (even if it is in the same office space);
  • As part of any return-to-work meetings following a period of sickness absence;
  • As part of appraisal discussions;
  • As part of working with a new line manager
  • If an individual’s needs change

Who decides if the proposed adjustments are reasonable?

Although we will always say yes if we can, there may be business considerations that mean we can’t agree to all of the workplace adjustments an individual requests. If a request stops us being able to deliver our services and commitments, is disproportionately expensive or is unfair or unsafe for other staff, we may have to say no. In these cases your line manager will present very clear and specific reasons for not being able to meet your needs. Any disagreement in relation to the outcome would be handled in line with the individual policies, frameworks or procedures that relate to your request.

There are three key considerations to assessing whether adjustments are reasonable.

Effectiveness

The most important discussion is whether or not the adjustment will address the issues the member of staff faces. How effectively would they remove any barriers and reduce any disadvantage an individual is experiencing as a result of their disability? If the adjustments won’t make any material difference then they are not reasonable. It is important that any discussion about reasonable adjustments are collaborative between the staff member and the line manager to make sure that both agree that the adjustment is likely to be effective. Many disabled staff will have had adjustments in place in previous roles to address the same barriers or disadvantage they are experiencing in their current role. The member of staff will normally be the best person to judge how effective adjustments are likely to be.

Where a member of staff has a new disability or is new to the role then they and their managers may need advice and support on the types of adjustment that may be effective. Line managers should seek advice from their HR Adviser and use the services of the Business Disability Forum for advice in relation to adjustment for particular conditions. It may be appropriate to seek advice from the University’s Occupational Health service to obtain an assessment of the individual’s disability and any consequent disadvantage experienced, as well as recommendations for reasonable adjustments. Occupational Health will make recommendations on adjustments that may be suitable. The line manager should discuss the advice received from Occupational Health with the HR Adviser and the member of staff to agree which adjustments are suitable.

Practicality

As well as addressing the needs of the individual, to be reasonable the adjustment must also be practical to implement. This is not the same as affordability or complexity. An adjustment may not be practical if it could:

  • result in significant prolonged disruption to business to implement
  • significantly disadvantage other members of the workforce or your customers
  • create a health and safety risk for the individual or others would be compromised by making that adjustment. There must be very clear evidence that there is a valid health and safety risk that cannot be mitigated to rule out reasonable adjustment on this basis.
Affordability

Affordability is assessed against the University’s budget not that of the School or Directorate where an individual is employed. Affordability is unlikely to be an issue for most adjustments which have no or a low cost to implement. Affordability can be considered in relation to an adjustment that has very limited effectiveness especially where this is part of a package of adjustments. For adjustments that will incur more significant costs (usually estates related) consideration will be given to alternative solutions that have similar effectiveness (eg relocating staff to more suitable space on campus) as part of the decision making process.

Who pays for a workplace adjustment?

Most workplace adjustments are cost free or have a very low cost. It is assumed that any workplace adjustment that does incur a cost will be paid for by the staff member's Directorate or School. Where the costs are more significant and/or relate to shared infrastructure you should contact your finance team contact to discuss how this will be funded. However you should ensure that where a workplace adjustment has been approved, this is not delayed while the correct budget head is identified as this will cause unnecessary disadvantage to the disabled staff member. You can request to receive assurance from your finance team that this will be applied retrospectively to payments to enable work to be authorised.

Some disabled staff may be able to gain support for workplace adjustments through Access to Work. Access to Work is a publicly funded employment support programme that aims to help more disabled people start or stay in work. It can provide practical and financial support for individuals who have a disability or long term physical or mental health condition. If you think that you are eligible for an Access to Work grant for a workplace adjustment the application has to be made by the individual. However the application process requires information from your employer so you should work with your line manager and HR associate to help you gather the information you need to complete the application, eg you may want to use recommendations from occupational health assessment to support your case. 

Who can provide advice and support to staff and managers?

Most disabled staff members know exactly what workplace adjustment they need so the starting point is a discussion with your line manager to request the adjustment. This is not always the case, for example for staff newly diagnosed with a condition or who have a significant change in their condition. This can also be the case where a disabled person is starting in a working environment that is new to them, whether that is the role or the location.In all of these cases you may need some support in identifying the right workplcae adjustments.

Human Resources

Managers can seek advice from their HR Associate when considering workplace adjustments for disabled members of staff or job applicants.Your HR Associate will have experience of a range of workplace adjustments and can point you towards further information and advice.

Occupational Health

Where appropriate, the manager should seek advice from the University’s Occupational Health service to obtain an assessment of the individual’s disability and any consequent disadvantage suffered, as well as recommendations for workplace adjustments. Remember that you do not need to refer all staff requesting a workplace adjustment to Occupational Health. if there is a clear understanding of the workplace adjustments required often there is no value in seeking confirmation of this from Occupational Health.

The manager should discuss the advice received from Occupational Health with the staff member and their HR Associate. Occupational Health reports make recommendations as they cannot judge the reasonableness (ie how effective, practical or affordable) the proposed adjustments are in the context of the individual's workplace.

Estates and facilities

If the workplace adjustment relates to the location of an individual on campus, furniture, requires changes to the fabric of the building the work in or relates to parking / transport then you can get support from the Estates and Facilities team. SEF will support you in identifying solutions and in completing any work. In the first instance you should raise your request through the Service Desk.

IT

If the workplace adjustment relates to assistive technology, both hardware and software then you can get support from IT Services. ITS will support you in identifying, sourcing and implementing solutions. In the first instance you should contact the IT Service desk.

Health and Safety

A personal emergency evacuation plan (PEEP) is an individual’s escape plan for those who may require extra assistance in the event of an emergency building exit. In order to evacuate rapidly and safely to a place of relative safety, the individual may require help, guidance or special equipment. Staff who have mobility, hearing, sight or cognitive impairments and/ or would have difficulty quickly and safely exiting the building or making their way to a relative place of safety require a PEEP. If you need assistance please contact the Health and Safety Team. Email:healthsafety@sussex.ac.uk

Student Support Unit

Colleagues in the Student Support Unit have a wealth of knowledge in relation to reasonable adjustments for disabled students which can translate to the workplace. 

Other sources of information

We have provided links to a range of other useful resources in the further information section of this toolkit.