We are now in the middle of a once-in-a-century event. Covid-19 means more people than ever before are required to work from home.
But if you are a disabled worker and have reasonable adjustments at work, this change can prevent you doing your job properly.
Employers have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable workplace adjustments for disabled people. This is to prevent a disabled worker being put at a disadvantage compared to a non-disabled worker. This can be due to the way the workplace is organised, the physical features of the work environment or the absence of an extra aid or service.
Yes, the Equality Act 2010 is still the law. The Covid-19 pandemic has not changed that.
Agreed reasonable adjustments for home-based working still apply.
However, if you find that because you are working from home your existing adjustments are not working for you anymore, you should have a conversation with your manager about putting in place ones that will.
New requirements for reasonable adjustments should also be addressed.
There is no one-size-fits-all reasonable adjustment because each person’s needs are specific. Changes could include altering work hours, installing software programmes on your computer or delivering specialist pre-assembled equipment like a work chair.
Reps should offer to take part in these conversations to support you. It is best practice to have a written record of these discussions and agreements. One tool for doing so is the TUC’s Disability Reasonable Adjustments Passport. It will help you record modifications to existing adjustments or record new ones.
For some requests, what is reasonable will be unaffected by considerations related to the pandemic. For example, and as outlined above, the installation of software programmes on a worker’s computer or the delivery of specialist pre-assembled equipment like a work chair.
In other cases, while the law has stayed the same, the efforts an Employment Tribunal will consider sufficient to discharge an employer’s obligation under the law are unclear in some circumstances.
Refer to Covid-19 Reasonable Adjustments page
Deaf or hearing-impaired workers may find it harder to participate in video conferencing unless the employer puts in place the right support, eg speech-to-text or installing a specialist phone. It may also be possible for a BSL interpreter to join video conference meetings.
What can I do if my employer is refusing to put in place the right adjustments?
In law, employers have to do only what is “reasonable”. The test of what is reasonable is objective, not just what a worker may personally think. Employers can take into account:
However, if your employer refuses the reasonable adjustments you need you should take union advice on going to an employment tribunal on the grounds of disability discrimination.
My employer wants to furlough me because they don’t want to put reasonable adjustments in place. Can they do that?
In those circumstances you should get advice from your rep. Legally you may be able to take your boss to an employment tribunal on the grounds of unfavourable treatment because of disability.
For more on furloughing see www.tuc.org.uk/what-are-rules-if-youre-temporarily-laid-off
No, the situation is the same as if you were in your normal workplace. Your employer is responsible for paying for these. Many employers allow workers to buy supplies and to claim the cost back. It is worth checking if the adjustment you need is covered by this.
Find out more about Covid-19 Reasonable Adjustments on our advice page.
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