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What are reasonable adjustments in the workplace?

Under the 2010 Equality Act, employers should make reasonable adjustments to the workplace and working practices or arrangements, so that a disabled employee or job applicant is not at a disadvantage.

Make sure changes do not cause resentment amongst other staff by including reasonable adjustments for disability and long-term conditions in your sickness policy and by fostering good communications amongst colleagues.

To optimise their available energy, consider allowing a person with M.E. to:

  • change their working hours to avoid rush-hour travel
  • work flexi or reduced hours
  • work from home if possible
  • have a fixed shift, where shift-work is involved
  • take longer or more frequent breaks away from the desk/computer/
  • workstation
  • attend medical appointments during working hours if required.

Small modifications to the working environment can also make a big difference. Examples might include:

  • providing a quiet area where your employee can rest without being disturbed
  • permission to use an allocated parking space near to the entrance of the building
  • altering the type of lighting or the location of the employee’s workstation if they are light or noise sensitive (a common symptom of M.E.)
  • giving as much notice as possible of any disruption to the working environment or routine.

Where employees experience cognitive problems as part of their M.E. it can be helpful to ensure that they receive notes or a summary of meetings wherever possible, and provide written as well as verbal instructions.

Reasonable adjustments may also include modifying workloads and/or physical tasks. Re-assigning tasks to another member of staff on a temporary or permanent basis can ease pressure and may help to reduce the need for time off. This may lead to a discussion about who else needs to know about your employee’s situation.

Documenting decisions made about the role of the employee, their working environment and any reasonable adjustments, is very important. For example, make it clear to your employee if there would be any adjustments to pay or benefits if their workload is reduced.

Regular performance reviews provide an opportunity for both employer and employee to discuss whether the workload and hours are sustainable.