If you’re living with an injury, illness or disability that impacts the way you do your job, accommodations in your workplace could help you succeed in your role.
If you’re a job seeker, you can ask for accommodations during the recruitment process – including how you do interviews or how you submit your application.
In Australia, employers are required to make “reasonable adjustments” to help you do your job effectively and safely. They may even be eligible for funding to make some adjustments. You can ask your employer directly for reasonable adjustments, or you can work with a disability employment service to get the support you need.
What are reasonable adjustments in the workplace?
Reasonable adjustments are changes in the workplace that allow employees to work safely and productively. If you are applying for a job, reasonable adjustments can also help make the recruitment process more accessible and inclusive.
The type of adjustments you can access will depend on what your needs are and the nature of your workplace. Employers in Australia are legally required to make reasonable adjustments to help employers do their job safely and properly.
Adjustments may be temporary or permanent, and they are often free or inexpensive. You and your employer may be eligible for funding to help make some changes in the workplaces.
Reasonable adjustments can include things like:
- Changes to your work schedule
- Changes to your responsibilities or performance requirements
- Modifications to the physical environment of the workplace
- Access to equipment or technology
When is an adjustment not reasonable?
Whether an adjustment is reasonable or not reasonable depends on the situation. Adjustments may be unreasonable if they cause “unjustifiable hardship” to the employer, for example if the cost is very high or if the adjustment will cause big disruptions in the workplace.
An employer may not have to make adjustments if they can show they are compliant with discrimination laws, and that adjustment is unreasonable or that even with the adjustment the employee will not be able to perform the essential requirements of the job.
What are my rights?
Under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, Australian employers are required to make reasonable adjustments for employees and job applicants with disability. It’s against the law for employers to discriminate against job applicants or employees because of a disability.
You aren’t legally obliged to tell your employer about your condition or disability, unless it affects your ability to perform the essential tasks of the job. In some circumstances, it might be helpful to disclose, for example if you want to ask for particular changes in the workplace.
You can find out more about your rights on the Australian Human Rights Commission website. You can also speak to a Disability Employment Services provider.
How to ask for accommodations at work
If you feel comfortable, you can talk directly with your supervisor or human resources (HR) department. If you need support asking for accommodations, contact a Disability Employment Services provider in your area. They can help you know your rights, make a request, access funding and get the support you need to thrive at work.
1. Identify your needs
Everyone’s needs are different when it comes to accommodations in the workplace. You may already know what your issues are and solutions that can help. If you’re not sure what kind of support you need, you may be eligible for workplace assessments and professional advice through a Disability Employment Services provider. You may also find it helpful to talk to your network, support group or union about possible solutions.
2. Explain your situation
In your request, explain your situation. You do not have to include personal information, but you may need to explain your condition or what’s causing you issues at work. State what changes you are asking for and explain any solutions you can think of to solve the issues.
3. Record your request in writing
It’s a good idea to make your request in writing so that both you and your employer have a copy of the request. For example, you could write a letter and attach it to an email. If you discuss things with your employer in person, write notes or keep a record so that you can refer back to it if needed.
4. Get support
It’s natural to feel nervous about asking for adjustments in the workplace, especially if you fear that you’ll be treated differently after you ask. If you need help asking for accommodations, support is available.
Disability employment support services can help you write your request, discuss solutions with your employer and access funding for accommodations at work. If you’re not sure what kind of support or changes you need, your employment services provider can organise workplace assessments to discover solutions that are right for you.
Funding for workplace adjustments
Employers are responsible for covering the costs of reasonable adjustments. However, you and your employer could be eligible for funding to help cover the costs of reasonable adjustments in the workplace.
The Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) is a funding scheme to help people with injury, illness or disability access accommodations at work. The EAF is available to eligible people who are starting a job, self-employed or already working.
The EAF provides funding for accommodations such as:
- Special equipment for the workplace
- Physical and structural modifications to the workplace
- Modifications to work vehicles
- Auslan interpreting services
- Specialist services for people with mental health conditions and learning disorders
- Disability awareness training
You or your employer can submit an application to the Employment Assistance Fund. If you aren’t sure what types of adjustments you need, you can access free workplace assessments through a Disability Employment Services provider.
What to do if your request is refused?
If your request is refused or you are not happy with your employer’s response to your request, you can contact the Fair Work Commission. The Fair Work Commission may arrange a meeting with you and your employer to find solutions.
Over to you
For many people, small and simple changes in the workplace can have life-changing benefits. Reasonable adjustments could help you improve your work performance, better manage your health and well being and achieve your career goals. You can ask for accommodations at any time, whether you’re looking for work, returning to work or currently working. If you need support, contact a Disability Employment Services provider near you.