What is ‘Reasonable Accommodation’?
‘Reasonable accommodation’ is where an employer makes a change to the tasks and structure of a job, or makes changes to the workplace environment so that an employee with a disability can do the job to the best of their ability and enjoy equal employment opportunities.
Employers must also make accommodations to enable people with disabilities to return to work having acquired a disability, as well as to participate in the job application process and enjoy benefits and privileges accorded to other employees.
However, under equality legislation, you as an employer are not obliged to provide special treatment or facilities if the cost of doing so is excessive or disproportionate. If you have to make changes to the workplace or work practices to accommodate a disabled employee, the demands should be ‘reasonable’ and should not impose a ‘disproportionate burden’ on you. In other words, the changes and the costs should be realistic for the business to bear depending on several factors:
· the nature and cost of the accommodation requested;
· the overall financial resources of the employer and the number of employees;
· the impact of the accommodation on the operations of the business.
Employers must also consider possible sources of funding, such as supports and grants provided by the Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection when assessing the cost of a particular accommodation.
Rather than assuming that the costs will be high, it is critical to establish what accommodations are needed, as not all supports require financial outlay. Research shows that most accommodations cost nothing and involve task adjustments.