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What reasonable adjustments should job applicants expect from employers?

Written by: RICS Recruit
Published on: 14 May 2024

Some practical examples can clarify – as can the experience of an award-winning surveyor

As a candidate, you deserve an equitable experience when applying for a job. This applies not only during the selection and interview process but also before that, in the way an advert is written and where it is placed.

Companies and recruitment consultants should ask proactively in the job advert whether you require reasonable adjustments, either at the application stage or during employment.

However, if this hasn’t happened, you should still feel confident contacting the company to detail any requirements you have. In addition, a potential employer should respect your privacy and keep any information about a disability confidential.

What are reasonable adjustments?

Adjustments may be required at any stage of the process. They are not simply a nice-to-have option – the UK government states: ‘Employers must make reasonable adjustments to make sure workers with disabilities, or physical or mental health conditions, are not substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs.’ This covers the recruitment process as well, as the following examples show.

Job adverts should be accessible to all

Employers have a responsibility, but not a legal obligation, to ensure they make reasonable adjustments to the way a job description is written or formatted, such as:

  • audio
  • Braille
  • large print.

These changes are key to ensuring that everyone can apply for jobs. Failing to implement these adjustments at this stage could prevent individuals from knowing there is even a position available.

Requesting flexibility in the application process

When applying, you as a candidate may reasonably ask the recruiter to:

  • accept applications in different formats, such as video or voice notes
  • offer assistance with completing the application, which may mean providing access to software such as Dragon Dictation; further advice is also available from the government’s Job Help service
  • adjust the deadline if necessary 
  • provide interview questions/topics in advance.

K2 Consultancy head of people Daniela Sponder says: ‘We always ask if there are any adjustments that need to be made when attending an interview, whether it be a language barrier, someone with a learning difficulty or a candidate with certain religious practices they follow. This reinforces our ethos and sets the tone for the process.’

Support that you can request at interview

They are many adjustments that a potential employer can make for your interview:

  • provide questions in writing, audio or any other more accessible form
  • be flexible about format and time – such as holding the interview online, in a more accessible location or by phone
  • offer a location that is accessible if you have mobility impairments
  • invite a sign language interpreter
  • allow additional time in tests, interviews or other assessment activities
  • advise about assistive technology
  • help with transportation if necessary
  • provide tests or assessments in alternative formats, for example as audio or enlarged print, or allow for breaks.

Asking for reasonable adjustments when you’re hired

If you have been hired, there are a number of ways your employer can support you:

  • take some time to understand the way you work, and how best to enable you to do your job effectively
  • draft a personalised work programme with you
  • make alternative working arrangements; if you have social anxiety disorder, for instance, this could mean giving you your own desk
  • make physical changes to the workplace, such as installing a ramp if you use a wheelchair, having quiet zones, or fitting an audio-visual fire alarm if you have a hearing impairment
  • provide equipment, such as a special keyboard if you have arthritis or screen protectors if you are prone to migraines
  • if you become disabled, enabling you to make a phased return to work, with flexible hours or part-time working where necessary
  • provide technology to make tasks more accessible
  • make social adaptations, such as breastfeeding areas and prayer rooms
  • offer flexible work arrangements.

Surveyor advocates for the reasonable adjustments he was denied

Zaman Sheikh is a commercial property and asset management surveyor. He has been hailed as a ‘brilliant’ professional who ‘genuinely cares about his community’ – just two of the client accolades that helped him win an RICS Matrics Young Surveyor of the Year Award for asset and facilities management in 2022. But his is a journey that has been far from straightforward.

The law graduate had been an immigration officer, prison officer and surveyor for several organisations before starting his own RICS-registered asset management and valuation business. The 30-year-old’s success has been motivated partly by his ‘tough’ journey and lessons learned about recruiting the right people along the way.

‘A few years ago, I wanted to do my master’s in real-estate finance and investment. At the same time, I’d been struggling to focus, so I went for tests and was diagnosed with ADHD. I told [my employers], and they told me to take a fortnight off. When I got back, my employment was terminated. I’ve used that moment to motivate me ever since.’

Accessibility broadens scope of talent available

It’s also been a catalyst for Zaman to give candidates the confidence to be clear about their needs when making job applications, and know that recruiters will support them – particularly in the surveying profession. ‘By making reasonable adjustments for candidates who need more flexibility in their working day, you attract and retain the best people from a wider talent pool,’ he says.

‘I’m upfront about my disability in a job application and interview. You should be able to be honest without fear of prejudice or discrimination. An inclusive recruitment policy means the company will be a good place to work.’

RICS offers support to surveyors

The standard set by RICS, proactive recruitment agencies and surveying firms to ensure best practice will benefit and protect candidates.

‘RICS-regulated firms are legally bound … in all RICS territories globally to make sure workers with disabilities or physical and mental health conditions are not disadvantaged in the process or when doing their jobs. If a company [is reluctant], would you want to work there anyway?’ says Zaman.

‘There are talented people with disabilities and [health] conditions who could bring so much to firms if preconceived prejudices are put aside and reasonable adjustments made. The aim must be to attract the best person for the job.’

Tough experiences prompt supportive approach

Zaman’s experience came to the fore again when he bought another firm, a lettings agency near his first business in Chelmsford, Essex. He was welcomed by two women in their 60s. ‘My first reaction was: “They have so much experience, I can’t waste it.”’

At the same time, they were concerned that their new employer would want to replace them with someone younger. He says: ‘I spoke to them, got a picture of them individually, and adapted their working days so they were fully on board and fitted in.’

He adds: ‘Being inclusive and welcoming begins when HR go through the CVs. It’s a chance to identify the right people for the role and let them know the interview location and format can be flexible to suit their needs. Then if you hire them, they know they’ll be looked after.

‘Equally, if someone voluntarily tells you in an interview they have three children and need flexibility, it makes sense to make adjustments if they’re the right person for the job. The best employers are always proactive in this area and open to learning.’

He admits things are changing as more surveying firms increasingly place diversity, equity and inclusion at the core of their recruitment, so people can learn from each other. Zaman concludes: ‘It’s obvious that if you’re open and inclusive as a business you’ll gain traction as a good, flexible employer. The talent pool you fish fr