How not making ‘reasonable adjustments’ could damage your business

There are around one billion people across the world living with a disability right now, and with an ageing population and a rise in chronic health conditions caused by unhealthy lifestyles, this number will only continue to rise.


With disability a very real part of so many people’s lives, are the businesses they work for doing enough to support them in the workplace?

The Equality Act 2010 came into force to make it a legal requirement for employers to make reasonable adjustments to overcome any barriers disabled workers might face in the workplace. This means employers must carry out an assessment and discuss possible adjustments with the individual it concerns.

The advantages of doing so are numerous and far-reaching - and yet so many organisations are still turning a blind eye.


Reasonable adjustments in the news

Earlier this year a branch of Starbucks came under fire for accusing a dyslexic employee of fraud for inputting refrigerator and water temperature details incorrectly.

The woman had previously made it clear to her employer that her dyslexia made it difficult for her to read, write, and tell the time.

This didn't stop them from accusing her of falsifying documents. They also reduced her responsibilities and told her to retrain, which she later told a tribunal left her feeling suicidal.

The tribunal found Starbucks guilty of not making reasonable adjustments for the employee's disability and this will be followed by a separate hearing to determine compensation amounts.

In response to the case, a Starbucks spokesperson said: “We are in ongoing discussions with this Starbucks partner around specific workplace support and we are not able to comment on a case that has not yet been completed.”

However, it did say the chain was committed to having a 'diverse and inclusive workforce' who 'feel welcome and comfortable in our stores'.

Dr Kate Saunders, chief executive of the British Dyslexia Association, said this case should be a 'wake-up call' for employers, considering that one in 10 people are estimated to have dyslexia, with many more not formally diagnosed.

The damage to your business

By failing to make reasonable adjustments, you may be damaging your business. Here’s how:

  • Not getting the most out of employees

The whole point of making reasonable adjustments is to help remove the barriers that prevent or hinder a person from doing their job. Therefore by investing in changes that enable that person do their job, you are giving them a platform from which to develop professionally. All businesses need individuals who have the capacity to grow and improve their skills. Sometimes it is the small changes that enable someone to do that. This might be as simple as installing a ramp at the entrance to your building, removing the need for a wheelchair user to call for assistance. It’s a small change to the premises that could make a big difference to someone, helping them get on with things independently and feel more empowered at the start of the day.

  • Not attracting or retaining talent

You want to recruit the best talent for your company. To do this you need to show that you’re a better employer than your competitors. That’s not just about getting a ping pong table for the lunch room. You need to think about individual needs. Showing that you are an all-inclusive employer that is flexible and open to making changes will attract the best talent - whether they have a disability or not.


  • Fostering bad feelings

If you show rigidity or reluctance when an employee wants to discuss reasonable adjustments, you will undoubtedly foster bad feelings within the company. You can prevent this by having a system in place to discuss the needs of your disabled employees. It is important to foster an open-door culture, so that team members know they can speak to their managers if they have any frustrations or issues. Remember that some people aren’t comfortable about asking for help, which can have a significant long-term effect on their mental wellbeing.

  • Stunting growth

Your people are your business. If your employees have the means to develop and improve their skills, then the business will grow with them. Making reasonable adjustments ensures that people with disabilities have just as much chance as those without, which will boost productivity, increase profits, and help grow your business over time. If you fail to make that initial investment, not only are you jeopardising your reputation, but you are also stunting the potential growth of your business.


  • Risking legal action

It is the law to make reasonable adjustments and if you fail to do so then you risk legal action, financial loss, and a damaged reputation.

If you need help identifying potential reasonable adjustments in the workplace, we can do that. We offer a range of assessments designed to empower and support people with dyslexia, hearing and sight impairments, and other disabilities.

To find out what these are and how they can help you, please head over to our Assessment Services page.