The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023

6 minutes reading time

Nearly 1500 disabled employees and 400 managers recently responded to The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023.

The survey assessed the extent to which the needs of disabled employees were being met and reached some interesting findings for employers.

The survey was run by the Business Disability Forum, a leading disability inclusion organisation.

It represents one of the most comprehensive pieces of research on the experiences of disabled employees when requesting adjustments in the workplace.

In this article, we summarise the survey findings, highlight the legal duties that employers need to be aware of in this area and finish with some useful best practice tips.

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The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023

What did the Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023 find?

The key findings were as follows:

  • 78% said they had to initiate the process of getting adjustments themselves rather than the employer doing this for them.
  • 58% said getting the needed adjustments was due to how assertive and confident they are to ask for that support.
  • 56% said there are still disability-related barriers in the workplace after adjustments have been made.
  • Only 37% feel their employer is genuine about removing all disability-related barriers and making the workplace inclusive for disabled employees.
  • Only 18% of disabled employees said their adjustments had removed all barriers in the workplace.
  • Only 10% said it was easy to get the adjustments they needed.
  • 1 in 8 disabled employees reported in this year's survey that they are waiting over a year to get the adjustments they need.

The responses demonstrate that employees with disabilities and long-term health issues wait an unacceptably long time for reasonable adjustments.

The vast majority reported having had to instigate the process themselves or even fund the adjustments out of their own pocket.

The survey's remit was not limited to adjustments but also touched on other disability-related barriers at work.

These included bullying and harassment, limited career progression and development opportunities, and the inaccessibility of well-being programs.

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What did the Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023 find

What are adjustments, and why are they important?

It's important for employers to provide appropriate support to employees with ongoing medical conditions.

Workplace adjustments are designed to alleviate a disadvantage that a particular person suffers due to a medical condition.

What represents a suitable and effective adjustment will be very case-specific.

However, examples might include:

  • Adjusting the lighting above someone's desk.
  • Adding a wheelchair ramp.
  • Changing someone's working patterns or allowing regular rest breaks.


Where an employee's medical condition is serious enough to qualify as a "disability" for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010, a legal duty is imposed on employers to make reasonable adjustments to remove or alleviate the disadvantages in work faced by the disabled employee.

A failure to make adjustments could result in an employer being hit with disability discrimination claims in the employment tribunal.

Even if the condition does not qualify as a disability, mishandling the situation by failing to offer appropriate support and adjustments to an employee with a medical problem could, in some cases, lead to other liabilities for an employer, such as unfair dismissal claims or breaches of an employer's health and safety obligations.

Aside from the legal reasons, support measures such as these can help ensure that employees feel supported, included and valued.

They can boost performance levels and foster stronger employee relations, create a safer working environment and improve retention levels.

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What are adjustments and why are they important

Reasonable adjustments claims

An employer's legal duty to make reasonable adjustments is owed to both employees and job applicants who have a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010 (and, in this context, "employees" carries a definition wide enough to include employees, workers and some self-employed individuals).

An individual's condition will meet the definition of a disability if they can show they have "a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities").

What will be a "reasonable" adjustment will vary depending on the circumstances, as the term is not statutorily defined.

However, the following factors should be weighed up by the employer:

  • The cost involved in making any adjustment;
  • The nature and size of the employer's business;
  • The extent of the financial and other resources available to the employer;
  • The availability of external financial or other assistance;
  • The practicalities of making the adjustment; and
  • The potential effectiveness of any adjustments in removing or reducing the disadvantage suffered by the disabled worker or applicant compared to a non-disabled person.

It will often be appropriate to seek the advice of an occupational health specialist at an early stage, so that the employer can gather more information about employee’s health, what might be impeding them at work, and what adjustments could be implemented.

In most cases where there has been a failure to make reasonable adjustments, the individual is likely to first make an informal complaint or raise a formal grievance, which might offer the employer an opportunity to amicably resolve the issues.

In other cases, the matter may escalate to a discrimination claim in the employment tribunal.

Damages for discrimination claims are uncapped, and so the cost consequences can be severe.

Furthermore, discrimination claims can be reputationally damaging for an organisation.

We have put together some tips for employers to consider when dealing with disabled employees and when faced with a need to make reasonable adjustments.

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Reasonable adjustments claims

Tips for employers

  • Create a supportive environment which is free from stigma and fear of stigma.
  • Encourage staff to be open about their disability by communicating clearly that disability support is available.
  • Consider implementing training on how to support staff members with disabilities and implement effective adjustments.
  • Engage with the employee or job applicant to understand the disadvantage they face so that reasonable adjustments can help them overcome this.
  • Identify which adjustments can be made in your workplace without having to undergo a formal adjustments procedure or occupational health assessment, for example, enabling flexible hours or providing a quiet area in the office for employees to sit in when they need a break.
  • Consider whether further medical information is needed from an occupational health assessment or the individual's GP, which may also highlight suitable recommended adjustments.
  • Use staff engagement surveys to gain a greater understanding of the experiences of employees and managers during the process of making reasonable adjustments.
  • Keep adjustments under review. Schedule routine catch-ups with the individual to check that adjustments are still appropriate and helpful.

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Tips for employers

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