The Business Disability Forum recently conducted The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023, which received responses from nearly 1500 disabled employees and 400 managers. This survey aimed to assess how well the needs of disabled employees were being met and provided interesting findings for employers regarding disability inclusion in the workplace. Myerson Solicitors LLP has summarised the survey results, highlighted employers’ legal duties in this area, and offered some best practice tips.
Key Survey Findings
The key findings from the Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023 are as follows:
- 78% of respondents stated that they had to take the initiative in obtaining workplace adjustments, as employers did not proactively offer them.
- 58% attributed their success in securing necessary adjustments to their assertiveness and confidence in asking for support.
- 56% reported that disability-related barriers still persisted in the workplace even after adjustments were made.
- Only 37% of respondents felt that their employers genuinely aimed to remove all disability-related barriers and create an inclusive environment for disabled employees.
- A mere 18% of disabled employees claimed that the adjustments they received had completely eliminated workplace barriers.
- Only 10% found it easy to obtain the adjustments they needed.
Comparing the current survey to its 2019 counterpart, a 4% improvement in the speed of obtaining adjustments over the last four years was observed. However, the survey revealed that 1 in 8 disabled employees still had to wait over a year to receive the necessary adjustments.
The survey highlighted that disabled employees and those with long-term health issues face unacceptable delays in receiving reasonable adjustments. The majority reported having to initiate the process themselves and, in some cases, fund the adjustments out of their own pockets. The survey also touched on other disability-related barriers in the workplace, including bullying, limited career progression, inaccessibility of well-being programs, and developmental opportunities.
Understanding Workplace Adjustments and their Significance
Workplace adjustments are essential for employers to provide appropriate support to employees with ongoing medical conditions. These adjustments are implemented to alleviate disadvantages faced by individuals due to their medical conditions. The appropriate adjustments vary case-by-case but may include modifying lighting, installing wheelchair ramps, altering working patterns, or allowing regular breaks throughout the day.
Aside from legal obligations, offering support measures like these helps employees feel supported, valued, and included. It can enhance performance, foster positive employee relations, create a safer work environment, and improve retention rates.
The Equality Act 2010 imposes a legal duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for employees and job applicants with disabilities. Failure to provide such adjustments could lead to claims for disability discrimination and other legal liabilities, even if the condition does not officially qualify as a disability under the Act.
Reasonable Adjustments Claims
The Equality Act 2010 defines disability as a “physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.” Employers’ duty to make reasonable adjustments applies to employees, workers, and certain self-employed individuals who fall under this definition.
The term “reasonable” adjustment is not explicitly defined in the law, but employers must consider factors such as cost, the nature and size of the business, available resources, potential assistance, practicality, and effectiveness of the adjustments. In cases where reasonable adjustments are not made, individuals may make informal complaints or formal grievances, which offer opportunities for resolution. However, unresolved cases could escalate to discrimination claims in employment tribunals, potentially resulting in significant damages and reputational damage for the employer.
Best Practice Tips for Employers
To ensure disability-inclusive workplaces and effectively implement reasonable adjustments, employers are advised to consider the following tips:
- Create a supportive and stigma-free environment that encourages employees to be open about their disabilities.
- Communicate clearly about the availability of disability support in the workplace.
- Offer training on supporting employees with disabilities and implementing effective adjustments.
- Engage with employees or job applicants to understand their specific needs for appropriate adjustments.
- Identify adjustments that can be implemented without a formal procedure or occupational health assessment, such as flexible working hours or designated quiet areas.
- Consider seeking further medical information, if necessary, from an occupational health assessment or the individual’s GP to identify suitable recommended adjustments.
- Use staff engagement surveys to gather insights into the experiences of employees and managers during the process of making reasonable adjustments.
- Regularly review the effectiveness of adjustments through routine catch-ups with employees.
The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023 has shed light on the current state of disability inclusion in workplaces. Employers should take note of the findings and implement the recommended best practices to create more accessible, inclusive, and supportive environments for disabled employees. By doing so, they can enhance employee well-being, productivity, and overall workplace satisfaction.