Wed 05 Jun 2019

Workplace wellbeing - May 2019

The effectiveness of reasonable adjustments has been called into question in light of the Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey plus details of a survey relating to mental health in the workplace.

The Business Disability Forum has recently published its  Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey.  The survey is based on responses from employees, managers and senior leaders in UK workforces sharing  their views and experiences of implementing and reviewing adjustments at work.  One of the key findings was that although 73% of respondents who had adjustments in place felt the arrangements had removed some of the barriers they experience in the workplace, only 19% felt they had removed all barriers.  Less than half of the respondents felt they had all the adjustments they needed and nearly 30% had decided not to request adjustments with the primary reason for that being concerns over the perception of the employer and the reaction of colleagues. 

We have certainly had considerable experience of advising our clients on these issues.  One factor not specifically highlighted in the survey is the complexity of some of the adjustments that are made.  Sometimes there is no reluctance on the part of the employer to make adjustments but the effective implementation of them is problematic.  For example, it is not unknown to have a disabled employee struggle more with a complex IT system which was installed as a reasonable adjustment than they did prior to the system being installed, or for both employee and manage tor struggle to understand the recommendations in an OH report.

A key conclusion that can be taken from the report is the need for good communication not only at the stage of making adjustments, but also afterwards to check that they are effective.  Line managers are likely to shoulder the burden here and training on making adjustments should make clear the need for follow up and the fact that the adjustments needed could change over time.

On a separate note, it was mental health awareness week in May and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health marked the occasion by surveying 400 employees to understand what was being done to support workers with mental health problems.  The research showed that despite significant efforts to address the issue  80% of employees would not discuss the problem with a line manager and that managers feel they have not been trained to recognise the symptoms.  Meanwhile the campaign for the introduction of  mental health first aiders in workplaces continues and it seems increasingly likely that this will become more prevalent in the future.

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