Disability discrimination: Obligations to make reasonable adjustments
January 15, 2016
Disability (whether temporary or long term) is a normal part of life for Australian workers.
In fact, almost one in five Australians has a disability with approximately half of those individuals also participating in the labour force. Although recent decades has seen major advances made, disability discrimination is a complex and evolving area of law that is fraught with risk for employers.
Your obligation to make reasonable adjustments
Under Australia’s strong anti-discrimination legislation, you are required to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate workers with a disability. In the vast majority of cases, small changes in the workplace will enable a worker with a disability to perform their role.
Any failure to make reasonable adjustments will constitute disability discrimination and may expose both you to significant liability for damages.
When you may decline to make an adjustment
While you are obliged to make reasonable adjustments, you are not required to make any adjustment that would impose unjustifiable hardship on you. You may therefore lawfully decline to make requested adjustments where:
- The adjustments needed are not in fact reasonable (with reference to relevant circumstances); or
- The person with the disability could not perform the inherent requirements of the job even if the adjustments were made.
Whether an adjustment would in fact impose unjustifiable hardship will ultimately depend on the circumstances of the particular case, including:
- The nature of the benefit or detriment likely to accrue to, or to be suffered by, any person concerned
- The effect of the disability on any person concerned
- Your financial circumstances, including the estimated amount of expenditure required to be made and whether there is any financial or other assistance available to you.
If you are likely to incur a very high cost, or if the workplace is likely to suffer significant disruption, the requested adjustment may not be reasonable.
HR Assured are the workplace relations experts. Our consultants have considerable experience in balancing your obligations to accommodate workers with a disability with the operational needs of your business.
For more information on the recommendations and what this means for you, clients should contact the HR Assured team. If you’d like more information about the benefits of becoming an HR Assured client contact us today for an informal chat.