Equality Act 2010: Briefing

Duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people

Those responsible for managing communal areas of commercial properties must take positive steps to remove the barriers disabled people may face. This is to ensure disabled people receive the same services, as far as this is possible, as someone who’s not disabled. The Equality Act 2010 calls this the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

What’s meant by the duty to make reasonable adjustments?

The Equality Act 2010 says changes or adjustments should be made to ensure disabled people can access goods and services.

What’s meant by reasonable?

Adjustments only have to be made if it’s reasonable to do so. What’s a reasonable thing to ask for depends on things like:

  • an individual’s disability
  • how practicable the changes are
  • if the change asked for would overcome the disadvantage disabled people experience
  • the size of the organisation
  • how much money and resources are available
  • the cost of making the changes
  • if any changes have already been made.

What do organisations have to do?

There are three different things organisations may have to do make it easier for disabled people to access properties.

1. Change the way things are done
Some organisations may have a certain way of doing things which makes it more difficult for disabled people to access. This could be a formal or informal policy, a rule or a practice. It could also be a one-off decision. The Equality Act calls this a provision, criterion or practice.The organisation should change these things if they are a barrier for disabled people, unless it’s unreasonable to do so.

2.  Change a physical feature
Sometimes a physical feature of a building or other premises may make it more difficult for disabled people to access or use it.

Here are examples of physical features which it might be possible to change:

  • steps and stairs
  • passageways and paths
  • entrances and exits
  • internal and external doors
  • toilets
  • signs
  • lighting and ventilation
  • the size of premises.

The kind of adjustments which could be made includes removing, changing or providing a way of avoiding the physical feature, where it’s reasonable to do so.

Here are examples of reasonable adjustments:

  • providing ramps and stairway lifts
  • making doorways wider
  • installing automatic doors
  • providing more lighting and clearer signs.

3. Provide extra aids or services
Sometimes disabled people may need particular aids or equipment to help them access or do something. Or disabled people may need additional services. The Equality Act calls this auxiliary aids and services.

Here are examples of auxiliary aids and services which could be provided to help disabled people:

  • a portable induction loop for people with hearing aids
  • BSL interpreters
  • providing information in alternative formats, such as Braille or audio CD’s extra staff assistance.

When do organisations have to do these things?

The Equality Act says there’s a duty to make reasonable adjustments if disabled people are placed at a substantial disadvantage because of their disability compared to non-disabled people or people who don’t share the disability. Substantial means more than minor or trivial.

Work at height contractor sentenced after safety failures

A roofing contractor, C Smith Roofing has been sentenced for safety breaches after workers were left at risk of falling from unprotected roof edges.

The failures were discovered by health and safety staff who could see unsafe scaffolding from their office window.

Leeds Crown Court heard that in November 2015 Mr Smith was contracted to carry out some roof repairs to a Guest House roof in Northallerton. Scaffolding was erected along the full length of the roof at the front of the property.

The presence of a conservatory structure at the rear meant that the company only erected a partial scaffold. It did not take the conservatory into account, which left approximately two thirds of the rear roof edge unprotected.

In February 2016, nearby health and safety risk managers at North Yorkshire County Council could see the project from their office window and had concerns about the safety of the two workers on a roof where there were inadequate fall protection measures in place such as scaffolding.

Two operatives working under the control of Mr Smith were at risk of falling approximately seven metres from the unprotected edge of the roof at the rear of the property.

Mr Smith was given an eight-month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to complete 200 hours of community service.

Chris Smith from North Yorkshire pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6 (3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. As well as his suspended prison sentence and unpaid work requirement, he was also ordered to pay £5800 costs.

After the hearing, Health and Safety Executive inspector Tania Shiffer commented:

“Work at height, such as roof work, is a high-risk activity that accounts for a high proportion of workplace serious injuries and fatalities each year.

There were not suitable or sufficient measures in place to prevent the risk of a person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury.

This is a good example of HSE working closely with local authority partners, helping Great Britain work well.”

Worker dies following fall from ladder

A Hull-based bakery, Greencore Grocery Ltd has been ordered to pay a fine of £1million after a self-employed contractor died when he fell from a stepladder.

Hull Crown Court heard that the worker was contracted to complete electrical work at the Hull site in October 2013. Whilst wiring a motor situated above a machine, the contractor was standing on a stepladder. Greencore Grocery Ltd agreed this work activity could be completed using a stepladder, which it had provided. The contractor fell from the stepladder and suffered fatal injuries.

An investigation held by the Health and Safety Executive found that Greencore failed to properly plan the activity from the beginning including access arrangements to be made for installation of motors to use to carry out this work activity.

Greencore Grocery Ltd of Apex Park, Amsterdam Road, Sutton Fields Industrial Estate Hull, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The company was fined £1million and ordered to pay costs of £30,000.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Denise Fotheringham said:

“Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work related fatalities in Great Britain, the risks associated with working at height are well known.

Work at height regulations require that all work at height is properly planned and appropriate access is provided. If Greencore had carried this out this death could have been prevented.

Firm fined for avoidable death

Thomas Panels & Profiles Limited, a manufacturer of steel building components based in Leominster has been fined after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).  The investigation found that a piece of equipment was missing the necessary safeguards to prevent crushing injuries. As a result, a worker was fatally crushed.

Worcester Crown Court heard how Mr Jeffery Warner, 65, an employee of Thomas Panels & Profiles Limited was fatally crushed when a steel beam emerging from a machine pushed another beam and crushed him against a closed door.

The incident occurred on the 27 April 2015.  An investigation found the machine had been in operation since 2013 and it did not have suitable safeguards to prevent the risk of crushing injuries. It also found that the company failed to undertake an adequate risk assessment and its system of work was generally unsafe.

Thomas Panels & Profiles Limited of Southern Avenue, Leominster pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £285,000 with costs of £29,961.48.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Tariq Khan said:

“Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary safeguards, information, instruction and training to their workers.

This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the company to undertake a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and provide the necessary safeguards.”


Mr Warner’s family said:

“On 27 April 2015, society lost an amazing person. Jeffery Warner was a loving father, grandfather, son, brother, uncle and a friend. Not a day goes by when he is not in our thoughts and we find it very difficult on a daily basis not to pick up the phone to talk to him or ask him a question.

He was so skilful and his knowledge was exceptional. The past two years have been very emotional and we all miss him dearly.”