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Disability discrimination – are reasonable adjustments necessary?

The recent high profile claim brought by Ms Meseret Kumulchew against Starbucks has highlighted the importance of not discriminating against disabled employees. Sejal Raja revisits the duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled applicants and employees.

The law

The Equality Act 2010 requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to any provision, criterion or practice applied to the workplace and to any physical feature of the premises to assist applicants or employees who are disabled to help overcome a disadvantage.

The duty only arises where an employer knows or ought reasonably to know that the applicant/employee is disabled.
What are reasonable adjustments?

It is difficult to provide an exhaustive list of the adjustments that may be required, as it will depend on the applicants/employees disability, which of course will depend on individual circumstances. In determining whether an adjustment is reasonable, a tribunal will consider the size of the employer and the financial resources available to it. Furthermore, employers are not required to take measures that would impose a “disproportionate burden on the employer”.

Examples of reasonable adjustments

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has provided some examples of reasonable adjustments as follows:
· Re-allocation of duties; or
· Transfer to another role if available; or
· altering hours of work, i.e. to avoid the rush hour; or
· attending medical appointments; or
· modifying equipment, instructions or reference manuals; or
· providing a reader or interpreter, this might apply during a disciplinary process or a grievance procedure; or
· adjusting the redundancy selection criteria.


It is important that employers take careful steps to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made, either during the recruitment process or during the employment for any applicants or employees that are disabled to overcome their disability. Clearly, it will depend on the disability in question and the financial resources of the employer. If an employer fails to meet their obligation it could result in an employment tribunal claim, which could cost the employer not only financially but also reputationally.

If you would like assistance in meeting your obligations or have any questions arising from this article then please contact Sejal Raja on


This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.

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