Workplace Adjustments Guideline

These guidelines are for current or future staff with disabilities.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against someone on the grounds of disability.

What is a disability?

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 defines disability as:

  • total or partial loss of the person’s bodily or mental functions
  • total or partial loss of a part of the body
  • the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness
  • the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person’s body
  • a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction
  • a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person’s thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgment, or that results in disturbed behaviour;

and includes disability that:

  • presently exists
  • previously existed but no longer exists
  • may exist in the future
  • is imputed to a person (meaning it is thought or implied that the person has disability but does not).

What is a workplace adjustment?

A workplace adjustment is a change to a work process, practice, procedure or environment that enables an employee with disability to perform their job in a way that minimises the impact of their disability.

Workplace adjustments allow a person to:

  • perform the inherent or essential requirements of their job safely in the workplace
  • have equal opportunity in recruitment processes, promotion and ongoing development
  • experience equitable terms and conditions of employment
  • maximise productivity

Under the DDA, employers are obligated to make adjustments to accommodate an individual’s disability, unless that adjustment would result in unjustifiable hardship.

What is 'reasonable' when making adjustments?

Under the DDA, an adjustment is considered reasonable unless it causes “unjustifiable hardship” to the employer. Unjustifiable hardship could be in the form of financial cost, an amendment to the physical building that is not possible due to council or other restrictions, or an adjustment that would disadvantage other employees.

There are a number of factors to take into account when considering whether an adjustment is reasonable:

  • The effectiveness of the adjustment in assisting the employee with disability to perform their job
  • The practicality of the adjustment
  • The extent of any disruption caused to business operations
  • The financial or other costs of the adjustment
  • The extent of Arc’s financial resources
  • The availability of financial or other assistance to help make the adjustment
  • The nature of business activities and size of Arc

Examples of workplace adjustments

  • Allowing a person with disability to have some flexibility in their working hours, such as working part-time or starting and finishing later, or teleworking for part of the week
  • Redistributing minor duties (i.e. not inherent requirements of a job) that a person with disability finds difficult to do
  • Purchasing or modifying equipment, such as speech recognition software for someone with vision impairment, an amplified phone for a person who is hard of hearing, or a digital recorder for someone who finds it difficult to take written notes
  • Providing additional training, mentoring, supervision and support
  • Providing an Auslan interpreter or captioning for a Deaf employee
  • Providing agendas in electronic formats for people who find it difficult to manipulate pages
  • Height-adjustable workstations

For more examples of possible workplace adjustments, click here or here.

Who qualifies for a workplace adjustment?

Both prospective and current staff with disabilities in all forms of employment (full-time, part-time, contract and casual).

How does an employee apply for an adjustment?

The employee should contact their direct manager or the HR manager to inform them of the required adjustment. If the employee contacts their direct manager, the direct manager will notify HR of the request.

HR will assess the degree and costs of the adjustment. Each type of adjustment is considered on its own merits and is related to the specific disability and to the essential requirements of the position. The adjustment will be assessed on site in the workplace and will involve consultation with the prospective or current employee as one of the main sources of information on the adjustment needed.

How does Arc decide what is unjustifiable hardship?

It is not unlawful to discriminate against a person with a disability if their employment requires adjustments that impose unjustifiable hardship on Arc. However, Arc must be able to prove that an adjustment would cause it unjustifiable hardship.

Factors which would need to be considered include whether the cost of the adjustment/s would be more than Arc could afford, or whether the changes required would have a negative impact on other employees. These would need to be weighed against factors such as the benefit that the person with the disability, and the workplace generally, would gain from the service or facility that would be provided by the adjustment.

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