What is a workplace adjustment?
Previously referred to as a 'reasonable adjustment', a workplace adjustment is a change to a work process, practice, procedure or environment that enables an employee with disability to perform their job in a way that minimises the impact of their disability.
Workplace adjustments allow a person to:
- perform the inherent or essential requirements of their job safely in the workplace
- have equal opportunity in recruitment processes, promotion and ongoing development
- experience equitable terms and conditions of employment
- maximise productivity
Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA), employers are obligated to make adjustments to accommodate an individual’s disability, unless that adjustment would result in unjustifiable hardship. Many employers accept that workplace flexibility is an attraction and retention strategy.
Examples of workplace adjustments that create an inclusive environment include:
- Allowing a person with disability to have some flexibility in their working hours, such as working part-time or starting and finishing later, or teleworking for part of the week
- Redistributing minor duties (i.e. not inherent requirements of a job) that a person with disability finds difficult to do
- Purchasing or modifying equipment like voice-activated software for someone with a vision impairment, an amplified phone for a person who is hard of hearing, or a digital recorder for someone who finds it difficult to take written notes
- Providing additional training, mentoring, supervision and support
- Providing an Auslan interpreter or captioning for a Deaf employee
- Providing increased font size for people with vision impairment
- Providing agendas in electronic formats for people who find it difficult to manipulate pages
What is 'reasonable' when making adjustments?
- What do I need to do, and how will this fit with my organisation’s policies?
- What is considered ‘reasonable’ will depend on the facts and circumstances of the particular situation.
Under the DDA, an adjustment is considered reasonable unless it causes “unjustifiable hardship” to the employer or organisation. Unjustifiable hardship could be in the form of financial cost, an amendment to the physical building that is not possible due to council or other restrictions, or an adjustment that would disadvantage other employees.
There are a number of factors to take into account when considering whether an adjustment is reasonable:
- The effectiveness of the adjustment in assisting the employee with disability to perform their job
- The practicality of the adjustment
- The extent of any disruption caused to business operations
- The financial or other costs of the adjustment
- The extent of the organisation’s financial and other resources
- The availability of financial or other assistance to help make the adjustment (e.g. the Employment Assistance Fund)
- The nature of business activities and size of the organisation
For more information on workplace adjustments visit JobAccess.
How do I get help for free workplace assessments?
JobAccess is an Australian Government initiative that provides help and workplace solutions for the employment of people with disability. JobAccess provides free workplace assessments. They will organise a review of your workplace and recommend adjustments that will assist employees with disability.
JobAccess has an Employment Assistance Fund which provides financial assistance to businesses so they can purchase a range of work-related modifications and services. Assistance is available for people who are about to start a job or who are currently working, as well as those who require assistance to find and prepare for work.
The Fund may reimburse the cost of work related modifications and services including, but not limited to:
- The cost of modifications to the physical work environment
- Modifications to work vehicles
- Adaptive equipment for the workplace
- Training required to learn how to use any equipment funded in the workplace
- Information and communication devices
- Auslan interpreting for interviews, workplace interpreting or co-worker Auslan training
- Specialist workplace services for employees with specific learning disorders and mental health conditions
- Disability awareness training
- Deafness awareness training
- Mental health awareness training
JobAccess has managed over 22,000 funding requests since inception and organised nearly 7,000 worksite assessments to determine disability-specific workplace needs. See the JobAccess website or phone 1800 464 800
How can AND help?
The Australian network on Disability (AND) offers expertise in assisting Australian businesses with the development and implementation of workplace adjustment policies and procedures.
Once established, a Workplace Adjustment Policy is the foundation of an inclusive and barrier-free workplace. The policy maximises the retention of existing employees who may acquire disability, and facilitates the employment of skilled and talented candidates with disability. A Workplace Adjustment Policy also manages risks and minimises costs.