How to ask for reasonable adjustments

Two ladies sign language with a mug and saucer in front of them in a cafe.

The law says that every disabled person has the right to “reasonable adjustments” to meet their needs at work. 

As the national employment lead at Sense, I’m passionate about everybody’s right to have the support they need to do their jobs. 

In this blog, I’ll break down some of our most commonly asked questions about reasonable adjustments, and how to ask your boss for them. 

What are “reasonable adjustments”?

The Equality Act 2010 says that employers have a duty to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled people. 

What counts as a “reasonable adjustment” really depends on the person and their job. Basically, it’s a way of meeting your needs so that you can do your job effectively. 

It could be something physical, like a wheelchair ramp. Or it could be a piece of software, or even a change in your working hours or responsibilities. 

It’s anything that makes sure a person is included and supported in their workplace. 

What counts as “reasonable” is a big grey area. Everybody’s perspective is different. You might have to negotiate with your employer to work out what a “reasonable adjustment” might look like for you. 

Find out more about the legal definition of reasonable adjustments.

Who can ask for reasonable adjustments?

Anyone with a disability has the right to ask their employer for reasonable adjustments.

You might have a physical disability, or an invisible disability, or a long-term health condition. It doesn’t matter: if you need some extra support or accommodations in your role, you’re entitled to ask for it. 

Find out more about the definition of disability in the Equality Act 2010.

What reasonable adjustments can I ask for?

There is a huge range of reasonable adjustments you can ask for.

These are just a few examples of reasonable adjustments in the workplace:

  • A ramp into the building, for wheelchair users.
  • A ground floor desk.
  • Space for a guide dog to be at your desk, and to go outside when they need to. 
  • Fire alarms that can alert D/deaf people, with flashing lights or pagers that vibrate.
  • Telephone amplifiers for people who are hard of hearing. 
  • Screen readers for people with visual impairments.
  • A buddy system, particularly in environments like warehouses, where “buddies” can watch out for each other’s health and safety.

Reasonable adjustments aren’t just about physical features. For example, neurodivergent people might ask for adjustments in communication or work style. 

This could look like:

  • Job interview questions provided a couple of hours ahead of time, so you have some time to think about your answers.
  • Meeting notes to be sent to you at the end of meetings.
  • A change in the way your manager communicates tasks to you. 

“Whether it’s a change in language, behaviours, equipment or software, it’s just about having that support when you need it.”

Reasonable adjustments are all about matching the employee’s needs. 

It might be a case of raising awareness in your workplace, so that everybody is aware of how to make it an inclusive place to work. 

For example, colleagues of a blind person should know to visually describe what is happening in a room, and to state the names of people taking part in a meeting. 

People with D/deaf colleagues should be aware of how to communicate through a BSL interpreter. For example, talking directly to the D/deaf person and not saying “Can you tell them…?”

Whether it’s a change in language, behaviours, equipment or software, it’s just about having that support when you need it. 

Why are reasonable adjustments important?

Everybody deserves the support they need to get their job done.

Employers should be supportive and open to conversations with their staff. 

It might be that somebody has an invisible disability that their employers are totally unaware of. It might be somebody who’s worked at a company for years and years, and has now developed a health condition. 

Conversations should always be ongoing with staff, to find out what support everybody needs to do their jobs. It should be about preventing fires, not putting out fires.

Even really small adjustments can make a big difference to how comfortable someone feels doing their job.

It might cost nothing, but it improves retention rates, and overall makes a happier environment to work in. 

When should I disclose my disability and ask for reasonable adjustments?

In a perfect world, it shouldn’t matter if or when you disclose your disability to your employer. Ideally, your employer should focus on you as an individual: your skills, experience and knowledge. 

The only person who can decide when and how you talk to your employer about your disability is you. 

I would encourage you to do it as early in the journey as possible. It’s always best to have the right support in place for your job from the very start.

If you don’t say anything about your disability, it could potentially make it more difficult to make an application or get a job. 

Again, it shouldn’t be like that in a perfect world. But as things are, it’s important to make sure you’ve got the right support in place to be the best candidate and employee you can be. 

Asking for reasonable adjustments at work

Ask for reasonable adjustments during the application process if you can

“You don’t have to be sidelined. Be assertive. Remember that you are important.”

These days, I’m seeing a lot more employers asking if you need reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process. 

This can be helpful, for example if you need more time for your interview, or documents to be sent to you in a certain format. 

It’s great to start the conversation about reasonable adjustments before or during the interview stage. 

If you already have a job but your needs change, or you’ve realised that you need reasonable adjustments to cope, the best thing to do is speak to your manager.

Talk to your manager first, then HR

The first port of call for any questions or requests you have at work should always be your line manager. 

They’re there to support you, and to make sure that your work is going as smoothly as possible. 

If you need more support or things aren’t moving quickly enough, you can go to HR (a bit more on that below). But the first thing to do is have an informal chat with your manager.

Go in prepared

It’s always a good idea, when you’re making any kind of request at work, to go in prepared with what you want. 

Before chatting to your manager, it might be helpful to reflect on what reasonable adjustments would be helpful for you. 

But, while it is partly your responsibility to think about what you need, your line manager should also support you with that. 

They should be able to talk you through the resources and options that are available. 

They’re there to make sure that you’re being looked after, so you don’t have to handle it all on your own. 

Remember that you deserve support to be your best at work

It can be scary to tell your employer that you need some adjustments to do your job. 

Don’t ever see yourself as a pest. You have so much to offer your workplace with your unique skills and knowledge, you just need the right support. 

You don’t have to be sidelined. Be assertive. Remember that you are important. 

And remember that everybody needs to change something or ask for something at work sometimes, regardless of who they are. 

Your voice should be a priority in your workplace.

How long does my employer have to make reasonable adjustments?

There’s no exact timeline set in law for employers to make reasonable adjustments, but once you’ve requested them, they have a duty to act as soon as possible. 

If your employer is taking a long time to respond, or is refusing to make reasonable adjustments for you, then you have a few options. 

You can start by writing to your employer. If they’ve told you that your adjustment is too expensive, you might suggest that they can look into Access to Work, or charities associated with your disability, who might be able to provide financial support. 

If you’re not having any success with speaking to your manager, you might want to escalate your problem to HR. You should follow the procedure for grievances and complaints in your workplace. 

If you’re still having problems, it’s best to get legal advice. ACAS can provide advice and support with workplace disputes. 

Find out more about what the Equality Act 2010 says about failure to make reasonable adjustments.

Getting support with asking for reasonable adjustments

There is support out there for you when you’re asking for reasonable adjustments at work. 

You might be able to get funding from the government’s Access to Work programme.

ACAS and Citizens Advice can offer legal advice. 

Here at Sense, we also have an employment support service. We offer support to disabled people who are seeking reasonable adjustments at work. 

We also offer training and advice to employers on how to respond to these conversations and meet the needs of their staff.

It’s important that employers have a better understanding of what their roles and responsibilities are – so it’s not all on the employees!

Get employment support from Sense

Are you disabled and need support with talking to your employer, or looking for jobs?