Making Reasonable Adjustments
The below article is written by Diversity and Inclusion Architect, Toby Mildon. Before establishing his own D&I practice Toby served as D&I Manager for Deloitte and the BBC. Below he shares fascinating insights from growing up with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and how he never letting it dampen his ambition to work for large organisations .
One of my favourite things about the Equality Act 2010 is the provision of reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. Reasonable adjustments are designed to “remove or minimise disadvantages experienced by disabled people”. However, I believe that reasonable adjustments should be made available to all employees so that everyone can have the tools they need to thrive in their job. A disabled employee may need assistive technology on their computer (for example, I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech to text software because of my weak arms and hands). In previous jobs I’ve also been given the flexibility in when I start working but this is no different to a working parent who needs to drop their kids off at school and start after 9 AM. A very simple question we should ask each and every employee is what roadblock or speed hump is getting in your way? And (as your employer) what can I do to remove these for you?
Working from home is not a benefit
The term Reasonable Adjustment can cause some confusion and throw up some objections
Workplace Adjustments not Reasonable Adjustments
- Communication – This is about how we communicate with each other at work and our physical appearance
- Paperwork – This is about working with documents and forms
- Computers – This is about making computers and other technology (including mobile devices, tablets, touchscreen devices etc.) accessible to everybody
- Workspace – This is about your personal workspace at work like your desk
- Workplace – This is about your workplace environment, like your office
- Travel – This is about travelling for your job (for example, to visit clients) or getting to and from work
Keeping an engaged workforce
Examples of workplace adjustments that my employers have made available to me (along with associated costs)
Cost: nothing as this is existing software in use in the firm.
Paperwork – as I cannot use a pen I do as much as possible electronically on my laptop or phone. Colleagues would email not print out documents for me. I would take meeting notes on my iPhone instead of a notepad. I would sign documents electronically using a PDF editor instead of handwriting signatures.
Cost: nothing because this is pre-existing technology (and I’m saving the environment!)
Computers – I prefer to use a laptop than a PC as a laptop keyboard is better for me to use and I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which is speech to text software to write documents.
Cost: very little since all employees were issued a laptop (so no special treatment for me) and the organisations had a bulk licence for the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software.
Workspace – whilst we “hot desked” I was allocated a fixed desk (so I knew I could manoeuvre my wheelchair easily up to it) with an adjacent desk for my PA. There was an understanding in my office that if I was not at my desk by 10 AM then it was free for anybody else to use.
Workplace – I just need regular disabled/wheelchair access into my building like ramps and lifts and disabled toilets that all modern offices provide. Even when I was working as a consultant on client site (and we could have been working anywhere, like an old 1940s telephone exchange) my company were pretty good at making sure I had somewhere accessible to work.
Cost: nothing as the office was built with accessibility in mind (except for the 1940s Telephone exchange!).
Travel – with only 20% of London’s underground system step free getting to and from work (especially during rush-hour and in cold weather which is not good for my disability) and visiting clients can be tricky. This is where Access to Work was a lifesaver for me. Access to Work which is a Department for Work and Pensions schemes contributed towards my taxis to and from work. I made a personal contribution to each journey (just like I would pay for my tube fares to work) and they paid the rest of the fare.
Cost: nothing as my employer was not expected to contribute anything under this scheme. Whilst the taxi fares did come out of the government’s purse, a government commissioned report found that for every £1 invested in AtW, £1.48 is returned to the Treasury, which is a pretty good return on investment in disabled people.
Workplace adjustments for nondisabled employees
The above examples prove that workplace adjustments don’t need to be expensive and can be very simple in reality. Providing such workplace adjustments for nondisabled employees as well could really go a long way in making people productive, happier and more engaged at work. Here are some real world examples of businesses providing such flexibility and adjustments for their people:
- Communication – making sure that all of your training films are subtitled as this not only helps people with hearing impairments but helps people where English is a second language, or they are working in a noisy environment or have simply forgotten their headphones to listen to the training
- Paperwork – who really does enjoy filling out paperwork? Invest in time-saving apps and software to electronically sign documents with clients, automated workflow to minimise data re-entry (and associated errors). It’s less paperwork and more efficient.
- Computers – make laptops standard issue rather than a mix of laptops for some people (like your salesforce) and desktop PCs for others. Modern work environments need people to be mobile and agile so why not just issue everybody a laptop or tablet.
- Workspace – the best workplaces provide different types of work environments within their office For different types of tasks that need to be completed. They provide team collaboration spaces, quiet focus booths, team tables, large meeting rooms, small meeting rooms and relaxation spaces to unwind. Somebody with autism may like to work in a focused booth where there is less distraction from loud noises or bright lights just the same as somebody who needs to get their head down to finish that critical report for a board meeting.
- Workplace – the most important one here is in flexible hours. This is the number one factor in keeping employees engaged and millennial’s just expect this to be provided and not a career benefit. There are organisations that operate on really simple principles, which are: you are judged on the value that you deliver and not how much time you spend sat at your desk, you can work anywhere you like where you feel the most productive and you can work at any time you like in order to get the job done.
Questions to ask that will ensure happy staff and employers
The first question: what prevents you from excelling in your job? As in, what speed humps and roadblocks are in your way?
The second question: what do we need to do (as an employer) to remove these barriers for you? Then go about eliminating these barriers so that your people can flourish in order to grow your business.
About the author:
Diversity and Inclusion Architect
Toby Mildon is a Diversity & Inclusion Architect and founder of Mildon, a consultancy and advisory business. Toby works with businesses to re-engineer processes and systems to minimise the impact of bias and build a culture of inclusion. Prior to setting up his business, Toby worked as an in-house diversity and inclusion manager at the BBC and Deloitte.
Toby is the author of Inclusive Growth: Future proof your business by creating a diverse workplace.
Inclusive Growth provides a practical framework that enables you to deliver a sustainable, diverse and inclusive workplace which allows your organisation to grow. You will understand how to:
- Strategically align diversity and inclusion to organisational growth
- Change the culture and motivate senior leaders to ‘walk the talk’ for inclusivity
- Design and implement a sustainable inclusivity infrastructure
- Work as a whole organisation rather than in HR isolation
- Celebrate your inclusivity to become an employer of choice in your industry
Category: Expert Advice
Released On 10th Aug 2020