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Why are workplace adjustments important and why should I care?

20 Mar 2018

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Workplace adjustments are not a new concept for most businesses. Yet, how organisations perceive the requirement for workplace adjustments, and the processes and practices to put them into place still varies considerably. 

How does your organisation view workplace adjustments? 
A. As your legal duty 
B. An opportunity to protect, support and develop your greatest asset… your people!

Like so many businesses, you might not be sure. We feel the answer should be both! If you only recognise workplace adjustments as a legal duty, you are missing an opportunity to deliver real business impact.

Yes, under equality law, you have a duty and legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to ensure equality for disabled people in the workplace. But, when you consider the prevalence of disability and health conditions across your workforce, particularly mental health issues, it’s not a surprise that putting in place some simple adjustments can have a positive impact on the wellbeing, efficiency and performance of your workforce.

Did you know…
WPA Part 1 Infograpic.jpg
Despite a real shift in attitude towards mental health, we still know that; 1 in 3 employees with a long-term health condition have not discussed it with their employer and 42% felt their condition affected their work ‘a great deal’ or ‘to some extent’.

The evidence speaks for itself, but the argument for any business is strengthened with other external factors. Such as the UK’s growing skills shortage, and the changing focus of millennials (who by 2020 will make up 50% of the global workforce), a group for whom support and feeling valued in a career is a driving factor. The challenge now is how do you stand out from the crowd when it comes to recruitment, career development, innovation and inclusion. 

Duty or necessity?
The perception that workplace adjustments are a cost as opposed to a tangible return on investment and language surrounding reasonable adjustments, being one of duty, obligation and ‘reasonableness’, is inadequate for success in current and future business. 

Get it right - with simple clear policies, procedures and practices in place your employees feel supported, engaged and able to deliver to their full potential. In turn, you can benefit from a positive workplace culture, improved talent attraction and retention, productivity, and performance. 

Failure to do so - If your employees don’t feel comfortable to ask for help, or if it is made too difficult then they won’t. Where this happens employees often feel devalued, disengaged, with productivity and performance impacted, often with increased levels of absenteeism.

The best companies have already recognised this; for them making adjustments is not just part of their commitment to inclusiveness, but is just ‘how business is done’. They also recognise that to be the best, you need talented employees performing to their highest ability which may involve making some adjustments.

Here is a great example from one of our clients:

Case Study

Challenge: A valued member of the team was falling behind in their work and were put under performance review by their manager. The individual self referred for our support.

During the assessment the individual showed traits of dyslexia, and shared that she had encountered periods of anxiety and fear at work. She stated that she often struggled with multitasking and organising her workload, as well as the inability to process her thoughts coherently. The manager was sympathetic, but felt he could no longer make allowances for slower work.

Our recommendations included:

  • Dyslexia coaching to address areas of difficulty, including her lack of confidence speaking amongst peers and understanding why this led to a barrier in effective team communications
  • The company’s employee assistance programme was highlighted, especially the rapid access to therapies, which the employee felt was hugely significant for them
  • Assistive technology, with training on how to use it. This included software that enabled the employee to establish timelines, work processes and organise their written work, as well as software that had a read back (voice) facility, enabling large pieces of text to be read much easier.

Impact: The performance review was suspended and removed shortly afterwards due to the impressive improvement of the employee’s performance. The manager reported that not only was the individual performing better, but was now confidently inputting ideas that had been adopted by the department. The working relationship with colleagues had drastically improved and the employee felt less anxious and a valued member of the team.


This is a great example of where without a clear, simple process being in place the likelihood of losing a valued team member was high. In this case, the direct cost of these adjustments were minimal, with the ‘Access to Work’ scheme covering the majority of costs. Contrary to popular belief, many workplace adaptations cost nothing and with an average cost of £75 it is clearly cost effective to provide workplace adjustments rather than lose an employee.

Earlier we asked… How does your organisation view workplace adjustments? If you’re still not sure, or want to know more, it would be great to talk to you about how we could help. You can visit our website for more information, or contact us to start a conversation.

About Remploy
Remploy deliver a workplace adjustment service across both the public and private sector. We help employers such as BT, BBC and GCHQ to protect and develop their greatest asset, whilst enabling thousands of talented individuals each year to reach their true potential.

 

Sources: Public Health England - health and work infographics 2017 and Equality and Human Rights Commission, Top Tips for Small Employers: A guide to employing disabled people

Further reading