Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Overview of Workplace Adjustments

As an employer we have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for disabled members of staff (or job applicant) to remove substantial disadvantage.

Our Vision

Details of what is covered by the Equality Act and the definition of disability and reasonable adjustments is detailed below. Our approach to reasonable adjustment goes beyond the definitions in the Act. Our vision is to become Inclusive Sussex, where all members of our community have equal access to opportunities, experience the University as one that enables them to fully meet their potential, and supports them to make a full contribution to University life. That means we support all of our staff by ensuring that how, when and where they work provides the right balance for them while also meeting the business need of the University. We therefore use the more inclusive term workplace adjustment as this recognises that we aim to be inclusive by design in all of our roles and the design and provision of facilities and buildings.

Our Approach 

Our approach to requests for a workplace adjustment is to say yes unless there is good business need to say no. Our flexible working procedure and remote working policy are key to many workplace adjustments. They are open to all staff, but for many disabled staff members they are part of the resources we provide for effective workplace adjustments. Hopefully we can arrange workplace adjustments to meet the needs of most people and details of different types of workplace adjustment are provided in this toolkit. In time we expect the toolkit to include more information as we become aware of more diverse needs.

Ensuring that our staff can work effectively in an inclusive environment benefits the University as a whole, as well as our staff. Our starting point with a request for a workplace adjustment will not be proof of impairment but proof of need. However, all requests will be considered for their effectiveness, practicality and affordability. We will listen and engage with the disabled employee through this process. Where a request is more complex eg it may require significant change, changes that impact a large number of staff or incur significant cost, your line manager will work with you, and where appropriate Occupational Health, to ensure we are fulfilling our duties under the Act and doing everything that is reasonable to make the adjustments you need. 

Definition of reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010

The University as an employer has a duty under the Act to make reasonable adjustments. This duty applies where a disabled member of staff (or job applicant) is put at a substantial disadvantage compared to others, by:

  • the application of a “provision, criteria or practice” (ie our policies and procedures and working practices)
  • a physical feature of our premises (this includes premises we occupied but do not own), or
  • the lack of an auxiliary aid or service (provision of equipment or support)

In these circumstances we must take such steps as it is reasonable to take to avoid that disadvantage. This is the reasonable adjustment.

Definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010

The general definition of disability for the purposes of the Equality Act is a “physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”. The Act defines long-term in this context as having lasted, or being likely to last for at least 12 months or the rest of the person’s life. Substantial is defined as more than minor or trivial. Further guidance on what is and is not covered by the definition is provided in Home Office guidance

Some people are deemed to be disabled for the purposes of the Act. For example, people with cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis are protected effectively from the point of diagnosis.

Requirement to make a reasonable adjustment

A failure to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled member of staff or applicant could amount to disability discrimination.

The duty to make reasonable adjustments does not apply where the employer does not know, and could not reasonably be expected to know, that an individual has a disability. Disabled staff may make a request under policies open to all staff, eg the flexible working procedure without reference to their disability. If this is refused and the reason for the request is to address a substantial disadvantage caused by your disability, you must make this clear to your line manager if you appeal or ask for the decision to be reconsidered as a reasonable adjustment.