Under the Equality Act (2010), employers have a legal obligation to offer support to any employee who has a disability, defined as a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person's ability to carry out day-to-day activities.
The new guidance summarises that reasonable adjustments must be made:
- when an employer knows, or could reasonably be expected to know, someone is disabled;
- when a disabled staff member or job applicant asks for adjustments;
- when someone who’s disabled is having difficulty with any part of their job; and/or
- when someone’s absence record, sickness record or delay in returning to work is because of, or linked to, their disability.
ACAS states when a company is looking to put in place reasonable adjustments that they should consider that:
- Every job position is different, one way to support an employee may not be appropriate in a different job position.
- Every employee is different, as people manage their own conditions differently.
- Mental health can develop and reoccur frequently, meaning a support measure you put in place in the present may not be appropriate in the future.
Examples of reasonable adjustments in relation to mental health:
- A change in the employees role or responsibilities, which could include a reduction in tasks,
- Reviewing how the employee is communicating.
- A change in a physical environment, which could be a change in workplace
- Providing additional support in the form of training or coaching.
ACAS highlights the importance of the employer and employee working together when discussing reasonable adjustments and being clear on what support the company can provide vs what the employee is requesting. Should an employee request reasonable adjustments, the company should be understanding and listening to the reasons why the employee has requested these adjustments.
Organisations should document any reasonable adjustments agreed and make a plan of when these actions will be implemented or later reviewed.
Employers are also advised to complete future checks with the employee to understand if the reasonable adjustments are providing the support required or if any further changes need to be actioned.
By conducting reviews and checking in on the employee, the employer can be seen as providing the extra support the employee may need. Ignoring a request for reasonable adjustments may be considered an act of unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act. The full ACAS guide can be accessed here: https://www.acas.org.uk/reasonable-adjustments-for-mental-health
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