To understand what reasonable adjustments are, we first need to understand the legislation they come from and the legal definitions surrounding disabilities. Don't worry, I'll keep it as light and breezy as one can with employment law!
Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 defines a list of protected characteristics which includes disability. That means that dismissing someone because of a protected characteristic is unlawful and therefore unfair. With me so far?
The Equality Act 2010 says that a disability is a health condition which has a debilitating impact on your day to day life for a significant period of time (interpreted as 12 months). So, if you have ANY health condition that stops or impacts your ability to do day to day things, it could be a disability.
I know what you're thinking; "shit, anyone can be disabled now!" And you'd be absolutely right. However, if you're thinking that this means you'll never be able to manage someone's sickness if they're disabled, you're wrong.
All it means is, you need to be consistent in your management of sickness and always consider that definition of a disability.
If an employee has a disability, you have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to keep them at work. But really, we should be doing that for all our employees, regardless of disability.
So what even is a reasonable adjustment? There's guidance as to what reasonable is or what adjustments you should make. However there are ways to get the answers:
GP Reports - you can write to the employees GP and ask for some advice on the nature of the health condition and what you can do to help the employee.
Occupational Health - as above, OH advise whether the Equality Act is likely to apply and what sorts of adjustments can be made.
Speak to your employee - they know better than anyone what they need to help them stay at work!
The purpose of the adjustments is to enable the employee to either be at work or to improve their attendance (or both!)
What is reasonable is debatable. It's assessed on a case by case basis and considered what is reasonable for your business.
Common adjustments which are made can involve reducing working hours, amending duties, amending work environment/equipment and redeployment.
What if I can't make reasonable adjustments?
In this scenario, you would need to evidence why you can't make the adjustments before making any decisions about the individual's employment.
If you cannot make any adjustments to support the individual you would need to consider redeployment to another role or terminating the employment on the grounds of capability. So it really needs to be thought through and you must evidence what you have considered as an alternative to dismissal.
Essentially, there is no one size fits all solution to managing an employee with a disability. You should approach every absence consistently, keeping in mind that you may need to make reasonable adjustments. And, if you're not sure what you need to do, you know who to call 💁🏼♀️