Disability discrimination: 12 common reasonable adjustments in recruitment

By Stephen Simpson on 2 Sep 2014 in Disability, Disability discrimination

The duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments can arise at any point during the recruitment process, from advertising the job through to selection. We round up 12 reasonable adjustments that employers may be required to make during recruitment.

Disability discrimination legislation is unusual among equality laws because it places an active duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of disabled employees and job applicants. This duty arises at any time – including during recruitment – when any aspect of the employer’s hiring process puts a disabled applicant at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with individuals who are not disabled.

The advertisement
1. Employers should ensure that a requirement that is advertised as being essential for a role really is absolutely necessary. For example, an employer might state in a job advertisement that applicants must hold a full driving licence. If this is not necessary for the job, it could discriminate against a disabled individual who cannot drive because of his or her condition.

2. Employers should be prepared to provide a job advertisement in a different format if a disabled job applicant requires it. For example, a visually impaired employee may require a job application to be provided in Braille. A particularly diligent employer could provide alternative means for disabled candidates to contact it.

The application
3. Employers should ensure that application forms are available in formats that are appropriate for applicants who are visually impaired. Alternative formats include large print, Braille or audio.
4. Employers should consider allowing candidates not to use the application form, but to present the required information in a different way, for example recorded verbally.

5. Employers should take into account gaps in education or employment history that relate to a disability when shortlisting and, if necessary, make a reasonable adjustment to any essential educational or experience criteria for the job so that a disabled person with lesser qualifications or experience is considered for interview. Some organisations offer a “guaranteed interview” scheme to disabled applicants who meet minimum selection criteria.

6. It is good practice to ask all applicants who have been shortlisted if they need any reasonable adjustments when inviting them for interview. A question about reasonable adjustments at this stage will ensure that any applicant who may or may not have, as yet, revealed a disability has the opportunity to request a reasonable adjustment to ensure that he or she can be assessed on merit for the post.

Reasonable adjustments in recruitment: XpertHR resources
How to comply with the duty to make reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process

Table of examples of reasonable adjustments

How is the obligation to make reasonable adjustments in the recruitment process affected by the rules on health enquiries?

The interview
7. Reasonable adjustments during an interview might include making changes to the location of the interview or adapting the environment, for example to enable wheelchair access or to dim down the lights for someone with epilepsy.

8. It may be necessary for the employer to provide an interpreter, for example for a candidate who communicates using sign language.

9. Employers should be aware that some candidates may benefit from having the interview at a particular time, for example if they have a condition that causes tiredness at certain times of the day, they need to take medication or eat at specific times, or they have difficulty using public transport during rush hour.

Selection testing
10. Employers must provide alternative formats of assessment test papers, for example in audio, Braille or large print versions and allow the candidate to present his or her answers using an alternative method, for example verbally rather than in writing.

11. It may be necessary for the employer to allow the candidate additional time to complete exams or selection tests, particularly individuals with dyslexia or other learning difficulties.

12. It is a good idea for employers using an external company to ensure that the psychometric testing does not discriminate, and particularly that reasonable adjustments are made for disabled candidates by the external company.

Recruitment: not all adjustments are reasonable
The following examples from case law show that, although recruiters are under a positive duty to accommodate disabled people, there are limits to the adjustments that they are expected to make:

  • No requirement to convert full-time vacancy to part-time post before job application It is well-established that the duty to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled person does not include converting a full-time vacancy to a part-time one before he or she has applied for the job.
  • Prohibitive cost of reasonable adjustments justified withdrawal of job offer An employer’s withdrawal of a job offer because of the exceptionally high costs of making reasonable adjustments can be lawful. In this case, the adjustments would have cost the employer £250,000 per annum.
  • No requirement to modify standards for disabled person This case is a good example of how a requested adjustment that dilutes the standards for a job – for example, where the job requires the employee to possess a particular skill – may not be reasonable.
  • No knowledge means no duty to make reasonable adjustments Employers cannot be expected to make adjustments for disabilities that they do not know about. In this case, the employer could not reasonably have been expected to anticipate any problems with an interview environment when an applicant with a rare form of epilepsy was affected by fluorescent lighting.
  • No discrimination when disability could cause danger to others There have been cases in which employers have been found not to have discriminated against a disabled person when the condition could pose a danger to him or herself or others. For example, an applicant for a job operating heavy machinery who suffers from narcolepsy would quite rightly be overlooked for the job.
  • No duty to make reasonable adjustments for carers Recent case law has confirmed that laws that cover reasonable accommodation for disabled people are limited to measures for the assistance of disabled employees, and do not cover adjustments for individuals who have an association with a disabled person, typically a carer.



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