Reasonable adjustments at work: When and what to consider

Employers have an obligation to make any reasonable adjustments necessary to help an employee or job candidate perform the inherent requirements of their role.

Reasonable adjustments may be required for workers with a disability, recovering from an injury or illness, or for those suffering from a chronic health condition.

What is a Reasonable Adjustment?

A reasonable adjustment in the workplace is any form of assistance or possible adjustment in a process, practice, procedure or environment to minimise the impact of a worker’s disability, injury or illness, enabling them to effectively and safely perform the inherent requirements of their role.

Before making changes, employers must understand the inherent demands of the worker’s role, including the physical and health demands with a focus on what needs to be accomplished rather than how.

Adjustments should be tailored to meet the individual’s needs and circumstances and should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure the worker remains safe and effective at work.

Download your Reasonable Adjustments fact sheet here.

When might you consider making reasonable adjustments in the workplace?

Under the Disability Discrimination Act, employers are required to consider making reasonable adjustments for a person with a disability who:

  • Applies for a job, is offered employment, or is an employee
  • Requires adjustments in order to participate in the recruitment process or perform the genuine and reasonable requirements of the job

However, if doing so would cause great disruption to the workplace or comes at a very high cost, this may be classed as unjustifiable hardship. Examples of unjustifiable hardship may include unreasonable financial burden, restrictions to the amendment of a building, or an adjustment that would disadvantage other employees.

Reasonable adjustments may not be limited to physical changes

This doesn’t just stop at purchasing new equipment and PPE. Reasonable adjustments may include changes to work hours, additional rest breaks, job rotation, technological assistance or training and education to address attitudes and culture in the workplace. Changes may be temporary or long term and should be tailored to the individual.

Making changes should be beneficial for both the employer and worker/job candidate. There are a host of benefits which could include:

  • Preventing health conditions and injuries from worsening
  • Improving and maintaining a safe and positive culture
  • Recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce

Reasonable adjustments form an important part of the rehabilitation process, and should be strongly considered as part of an ill or injured worker’s return to work plan.

“Even health problems that are frequently attributed to work—for example, musculoskeletal and mental health conditions—have been shown to benefit from activity‐based rehabilitation and an early return to suitable work,” The Australasian Faculty of Occupational & Environmental Medicine stated in ‘Realising the Health Benefits of Work’.

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