As an employer or manager you may be uncertain how to discuss workplace adjustments with your staff or how to agree and review any support required. Understandably, it can be challenging to know where to start. Here are our tips to a supportive and successful discussion.
Firstly, what do we mean by barriers and reasonable adjustments?
We believe disability is not caused by people’s impairments or health conditions. Disability is caused by barriers that arise due to society failing to accommodate people who have impairments or health conditions.
If these barriers are removed a person may still have an impairment but they would not experience a disability. We can remove barriers through reasonable adjustments. For example, a staff member is unable to start work at 9.00 a.m. due to their health condition and medication impacting them in the morning.
A reasonable adjustment would be to allow flexible working arrangements so they are able to start work later in the morning.
A Deaf staff member experiences communication barriers in the workplace as they use British Sign Language, a reasonable adjustment would be to provide a British Sign Language interpreter to translate for them at work. Read more information on reasonable adjustments on our website.
How to have an In Work Support Meeting
In Work Support meetings are held between a staff member, their manager and possibly a representative from Human Resources to identify reasonable adjustments and agree a plan for implementing them.
So how do you get the most out of the meeting?
1. Listen to your staff, they often know what they need.
It’s important to remember that disabled people are the experts in their own experience. They will have ideas on what support will help them get the job done. Try not to make any assumptions about what might help and be open minded on possible support. It may be helpful to ask a staff member to go through the in work support document before the meeting and make a note of any barriers and reasonable adjustments they want to discuss.
2. Remember barriers may exist outside of the office but still affect work.
Understand that barriers to work may exist outside of the workplace, for example someone’s access to care and support at home or travel to and from the workplace. As well as barriers to access the office such as intercom entry systems or lack of an accessible lift.
3. Be flexible and plan reviews.
It may not initially be obvious what reasonable adjustment is required. New disabled employees may not be familiar with their new role or aware of what assistive technology or equipment may be available to support them in the workplace. Therefore, it is helpful to be flexible with any support agreed, review often and make changes as necessary.
4. Use the financial support available
One scheme you may or may not be aware of is Access to Work, administered by the Department of Work and Pensions to help disabled people start and maintain paid employment. Disabled people can apply to the scheme to address specific barriers faced in the workplace. The assessment process determines the types of support that might be needed and often a workplace assessment will be offered to discuss any barriers and suggest potential solutions. There is a factsheet for employers available on the Access to Work website, we recommend you review this.
Some types of support may require medical evidence from a doctor or health professional, for example travel support. If a disabled employee isn’t able to use public transport to get to and from the workplace, Access to Work may grant a taxi budget for travelling to and from the usual place of work.
Some other kinds of support we have seen awarded through the scheme include:
- Personal Assistance (a paid person to provide practical assistance for a disabled employee at work)
- Specific software such as:
- Texthelp Read and Write to support people with dyslexia and those who need help with reading, writing and spelling.
- Zoomtext , an advanced screen magnification program that enlarges and enhances everything on the computer screen.
- Dragon Naturally Speaking speech recognition software.
- Equipment such as voice recorders or screen magnifiers
- Specialised chairs and desks for wheelchair users, people with chronic pain or other impairments
- Adapted keyboards and computer mice
- Mental Health Support Service (can provide workplace support, support plan and advice on reasonable adjustments)
5. Make use of your existing resources and policies
Don’t reinvent the wheel, you may already have existing Human Resource policies that would be helpful to refer to during the meeting. These could be:
- Mental health/wellbeing support policy
- Flexible working policy
- Sickness absence policy – you may wish to consider including a section about impairment related sickness
- Working from Home/ Remote Working Policy
- Health and Safety at work
- Display Screen Equipment assessment policy
6. Use our In Work Support Assessment template
Through our experience supporting employers to conduct In Work Assessments as part of our We Can Work Internship scheme we have developed an In Work Support meeting template. This document can act as a live record of adjustments agreed between the manager and employee.
We recommend that it is reviewed at regular intervals (e.g. every 6 months, or sooner if there is a change to the role or condition or impairment) to check that the information is still relevant, and the reasonable adjustments are effective. New and current disabled staff can complete this document.
Read more information on reasonable adjustments or learn to develop more accessible recruitment practices, retain talented staff and build a more inclusive workplace by joining the We Can Work internship programme.
If you want to read similar content then sign up to our EmployerAbility ebulletin for employers who value inclusion and want to get it right. EmployerAbility features information and practical guidance on how to make work and recruitment processes more accessible and inclusive.