Reasonable Accommodations: What is Reasonable when Supporting Neurodiversity in the Workplace?

Casual employees working in an office

Under the Irish Employment Equality Acts employers are required to make reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are changes or adaptations an employer makes to the workplace, such as adjustments to the environment or to a specific work practice, which supports people with disabilities to carry out their work on equal footing as their non-disabled colleagues.

Example of reasonable accommodations

The idea of making reasonable accommodations tends to elicit thoughts of expensive workplace redesigns for employers. However, in most scenarios, the cost of providing reasonable accommodation is minimal, if not free.

Some examples of how employers can accommodate employees with disabilities include:

  • Providing ear defenders
  • Moving desk to a quieter area
  • Adapting workstation or equipment
  • Providing flexible work arrangements
  • Reallocation of work tasks
  • Providing training and support  

Disproportionate burden

Employers are not required to make workplace accommodations that would impose a disproportionate burden on the business. When determining if a workplace accommodation is reasonable, the employer should consider the following factors:

  • the cost of the accommodation on the business
  • the financial resources and size of the business
  • the impact of the accommodation on employee time and productivity

Research indicates that the benefits employers and employees experience from making workplace accommodations far outweigh the low cost. Employers report that providing accommodations resulted in benefits such as retaining valuable employees, improving employee productivity and morale, and promoting a diverse workforce.[1] To conclude, workplace accommodations are powerful and cost effective tools that can enable employees with disabilities to thrive in their roles.

By Aisling Murphy, Assessment and Support Executive, Specialisterne Ireland.

Blog post created for the Neurodiversity at Work project webpage. 

[1] Solovieva, T. I., Dowler, D. L., & Walls, R. T. (2011). Employer benefits from making workplace accommodations. Disability and Health Journal4(1), 39-45.