By Helen Cooke, disability consultant and director of MyPlus Students' Club.
If you have a disability or long term health condition, you may require an adjustment in the workplace to enable you to do your job efficiently and effectively. You may have already have had adjustments during the recruitment process or you may choose request them only once you have started in your role. Either way it is imperative to ask for what you need.
Employers have a legal duty
Intelligent organisations implement adjustments simply because it is good business sense. However, they also have a legal duty to do so.
The Equalities Act 2010 states: "Employers have to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that a disabled employee was not treated less favourably than their non-disabled counterpart."
The purpose of an adjustment
The purpose of implementing an adjustment is to ensure that you are able to perform to the best of your ability. This is applies to whether an adjustment is made during the recruitment process or in the workplace itself.
Adjustments are also made for you once you are in the workplace to ensure that you can perform the role, as well as to demonstrate and fulfil your potential.
- Review your adjustment on an on-going basis to ensure that it continues to be fit for purpose.
- Your adjustment affords you to be appraised and assessed on an equal basis to your peers.
- Not having an adjustment may lead to a poor performance review; don't let this happen.
During the recruitment process, an adjustment provides a level playing field and enables you to be assessed on an equal basis to your peers.
Types of adjustments
The term 'disability' is very broad and therefore the different types of adjustments required are hugely varied. Some adjustments are very simple to implement and have little or no cost associated with them. Others are more complex and may require substantial financial support or additional resources.
Adjustments may also vary depending on the different situations. You may require something different during the interview process in comparison to when you join the organisation. Equally, your needs may change over time and with it the corresponding support and adjustments.
The types of adjustments that you may require are:
- Provision of assistive technology.
- Use of an interpreter.
- Flexible working.
- Adjustments to the layout of the work space.
- Become an expert in what you need.
- Don't be afraid to ask for what you require to be able to do your role.
- Be open to suggestions from others who are expert in this area.
The type of adjustment required is dependant on each individual's unique needs.
Requesting adjustments during the recruitment process
Organising for adjustments to be made during the recruitment process is a 2-way process involving clear communication between the employer and the applicant. The more open, honest and timely the communication, the more efficient the implementation process will be.
To ensure that the adjustment is implemented efficiently, your responsibilities include:
- Informing the employer what you require.
- Helping the employer to understand your needs as fully as possible.
- Communicating your needs as early as possible in the application process.
- Being timely in any correspondence.
- Making yourself available for conversations or for an orientation visit.
- Providing possible solutions not just problems.
To implement your adjustments effectively, the organisation's responsibilities include:
- Providing you with the opportunity to inform them about your requirements early on in the process.
- Engaging in open discussions with you and listen to your requirements.
- Responding to correspondence and answer any questions or concerns.
- Being realistic about what is reasonable and what can be achieved.
It is understandable that some employers may feel uncomfortable talking to you about your disability and associated needs as this is potentially very personal and sensitive information. By engaging in open dialogue with the employer, you can help them to have these essential conversations more easily. You can help them to better understand what you require and why. One way of approaching this is to explain the consequences of not receiving the support or adjustments that you require.
- Engaging in open dialogue with the employer will help you to have the necessary conversations.
- Explain the consequences of not receiving the support or adjustments that you require.
- Be reasonable and remember adjustments are there to level the playing field not to provide you with an advantage.
When you have joined an organisation..
It is important to ensure that you have the adjustments and support in place; failure to do so may mean you end up finding each day a struggle.
In some cases the adjustments you had during the recruitment process can be used as a basis for what you need in the work place. If not you will need to initiate a conversation about what you require.
As with the requesting support and adjustments for the recruitment process, it is a two way process involving both you and your new employer. Open and honest conversations are required to establish how you can best fulfil your role.
To ensure that you get what you need to enable you to do your role, you will need to:
- Be clear about what you need and don't be afraid to ask for it.
- Make yourself available for discussions and meetings.
- Involve your line manager as they will be involved in managing you on a daily basis.
- Use your own expertise to help your employer understand what you required.
- If you are unsure of what you require, organise a formal assessment.
- Provide timely feedback on the effectiveness of their adjustment.
- Aim to have the adjustments and support in place before you join the organisation.
To ensure that your adjustment is implemented efficiently your employer must:
- Engage in conversation about what you need rather than jump to conclusions.
- Be realistic about what is achievable.
- Involve your manager in the discussions about work place adjustments and support.
- Review the adjustments regularly with you to ensure that they continue to meet your needs.
- Be sensitive and respect what is confidential.
- Ask for what you actually need even if this is different to what you had during the recruitment process.
- Become an expert in your requirements and be confident to articulate these.
- Provide timely feedback on the effectiveness of the adjustment.
The more information you provide to your employer, the easier the process of providing support and adjustments will be.
What happens if my condition changes?
It is likely that your condition will change over time, and consequently your support needs. It is important that you continue to be open and honest about what you require and to engage in the relevant discussions to fulfil your role.
You may require advice from others such as occupational health professionals or organisations who specialise in advising and assessing workplace adjustments. Be confident in asking for support to help you work out what you require.
- Acknowledge if your condition is changing and the impact on your work.
- Discuss it sooner or later with your line manager.
- Think about what it is you are going to need and be clear in what you are ask for.
If your condition is changing don't wait until your work, or indeed your health, suffers before you ask for help.
Financial Costs Of Adjustments
Some adjustments can be made very easily and have no cost associated. Others are more complex and can become very expensive.
There is external funding available from Access to Work (AtW); this is government funding covering the additional costs of employing disabled people.
- Familiarize yourself with how Access to Work operates and what it can fund.
- Ask for what you required, regardless of cost.
- Ask your employer for help in completing any forms.
Costs should rarely, if ever, be a barrier to accessing what you need in the workplace.