Reasonable adjustments and Covid

The Equality Act 2010 can, in certain circumstances, require employers to make changes that ensure that anyone with a health issue, disability or other condition can do your job as well as your colleagues.

These changes are referred to as “reasonable adjustments” and you may be entitled to one if you find that, as a result of being neurodivergent, you are “substantially disadvantaged” by one or more of the following:

  1. a rule, practice or other working arrangement, such as not having an allocated desk; .
  2. a physical feature of your workplace – for example, bright overhead lighting or a desk that faces the back of a room; or
  3. not having extra equipment or help, such as a career coach or a desk lamp.

Importantly, your employer must pay for these adjustments. You should not have to contribute to their cost

What does substantial disadvantage mean? 

“Substantial disadvantage” is defined by the Equality Act  as “more than minor or trivial”.

As a result, this isn’t likely to cover a scenario where a task takes you a few minutes longer than your colleagues. If however you find that you are constantly falling behind, feel excluded or that your working environment makes it difficult for you to focus this is likely to constitute a “substantial disadvantage.”

Do I have to tell my employer I am autistic to get reasonable adjustments? 

An employer will only be expected to make reasonable adjustment for you if it knows, or reasonably ought to know that:

  1. you are disabled (for the purposes of the law); and
  2. you are experiencing a substantial disadvantage (see above).

Whilst your employer is advised, under the law, to do all it reasonably can to find out this information, you should inform them of your position in writing to avoid any doubts.

The duty to make reasonable adjustments also applies to the recruitment process so you may wish to consider telling potential future employers that you need adjustments to be made to the interview and recruitment process so that it is fairer to you.

How do I know if what I’m asking for is “reasonable”? 

This is a context-sensitive question and will turn on your employer’s particular circumstances. It will, however, need to consider:

  1. the extent to which the adjustment will help reduce the disadvantage in question;
  2. how practical it is;
  3. how expensive it is;
  4. how disruptive it would be; and
  5. where the work takes place in a household, how much the adjustment would disrupt the lives of the people living there

The above are questions that a court or tribunal would try to answer when determining whether an adjustment is reasonable.

Reasonable adjustments and COVID guidelines 

Your employer may be considering, or may already have implemented, a series of changes to ensure that your workplace is COVID-secure. This could include  a variety of different changes such as placing you in a new part of the premises to ensure social distancing can be maintained or asking you to work from home on a more regular basis.

If you find that these changes are preventing you from doing your job well, you should ask your employer to make reasonable adjustments to their policies to help you deal with this. You could, in the case of being asked to work from home for example, ask your employer to have managers check in with you more often to ensure that you’re getting the support you need. Or in the case of being moved to a different workspace, you could ask your employer to ensure that the new working environment is not disruptive to you.