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Previously, we touched upon how a mental health issue can amount to a disability.

Today, we explain that if it does, employers have a duty to make any necessary reasonable adjustments. Even where an employee’s mental health condition does not amount to a disability, it might be worth making adjustments to their role to suit their mental health needs and try to support them. The purpose of reasonable adjustment is to make work easier for an employee who is unwell which in turn, should make them more efficient and reduce the number of days they have off sick.

Reasonable adjustments can range widely and can include:

  • Change of shifts or hours
  • Change of job roles
  • Reduction in targets
  • Reorganising the pattern of a normal workday
  • Using headphones to block out distracting noises
  • Providing training, support or supervision as well as time off for medical assistance
  • Modification or internal procedures 
  • Introducing a phased return to work

Any changes that are requested by an employee to assist them in their role should be considered but only the reasonable changes need to be implemented.  In determining whether an adjustment is reasonable, employers should take into account: medical advice (if it has been sought); the employee’s views; the cost of the adjustment; and the business needs. 

Employees can bring a claim in the employment tribunal for their employer’s failure to make reasonable adjustments, whilst continuing in their job.  Any decision not to implement any adjustment should be properly explained to the employee and documented.  The employer should be able to demonstrate why the adjustment was not a reasonable one.

In some circumstances when a request for an adjustment from an employee is not reasonable, it might make good business sense to implement it anyway.  For example, if the employee is particularly vital to a business it may be worthwhile getting them back to work to add their full value to your business, rather than remaining off sick and receiving either contractual sick pay or statutory sick pay. 

Furthermore, making adjustments when you are not obliged could help to demonstrate the fairness of any subsequent dismissal should an employee be too unwell to continue working and it resulting in the termination of their employment.