Q&A: Can I refuse to make a reasonable adjustment if I can’t afford it?

For the second blog in our employment law series, we look at whether it’s possible to reject a reasonable adjustment request because of the cost.

BrightHR Team

Would you know what to do if you got a reasonable adjustment request? Few employers do.

That’s why they call BrightAdvice—our employment law helpline—to ask for help from our HR experts. But don’t reach for your phone just yet…

Because we’ve got the answer to this tricky HR problem right here.

Common question:  

My disabled employee has recently asked me to make reasonable adjustments for them at work.

I want to make their working life easier. But as we’re only a small company, I don’t have a lot of money to spare.

This is the first time I’ve ever had this type of request, and I don’t know if I’m able to refuse it. Can you help me?

Our HR expert’s answer

It’s important to know that under the Equality Act 2010, you must make reasonable adjustments for any disabled employee.

These adjustments can vary. For example, your employee might ask to take regular breaks or get special equipment (such as a lower desk) to help them complete their work.

But according to guidance, the cost of an adjustment and the employer’s finances should factor in when deciding whether an adjustment is reasonable or not.

So in theory, if you can show that making a reasonable adjustment will result in a significant financial loss for your business, you could avoid making it. But bear in mind that this could leave you at risk of disability discrimination.

Instead, you should sit down with your employee and make sure you understand exactly what they need to do their job. The average cost of a reasonable adjustment is £75, so the final cost might not be as scary as you think.  

Struggling with another HR issue?

Call our HR experts today. They can give you confidential legal advice on any employment law problem you face, including maternity leave, sick pay and disciplinaries.

Plus, our team of HR advisors are available 24/7—so even in the middle of the night, professional advice is just a phone call away.

Ring our helpline now on 0800 783 2806.