The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2019

Office hallway with people in it talking.

#AdjustOurWorkplaces

The most common topic our Advice Service team are asked about is adjustments in the workplace. How should they be funded? How should they be implemented? What is reasonable? What does a good workplace adjustments process look like? What is an ideal period for a review of adjustments? And how should the experience of making adjustments be improved for both employees and their managers?

Getting adjustments right is on the minds of many of the three hundred organisations we work with. Employers tell us, when they get it wrong, relationships between the employee and people managers become distrustful and frustrated; employees may go off sick because of this broken-down relationship or while they wait for their adjustments to be put in place; the employee may raise a formal grievance or get their employee network involved to advocate. As a result, the business function in which this all happens sees the consequences; tasks go unfulfilled, customers and clients often also see the impact, and some employers tell us they even hire agency staff to cover the role of the employee who is off waiting for their adjustments to be made.

Our advice, consultancy, and policy teams advise employers and other bodies on the above on a daily basis. However, we were keen to capture a snapshot of the current experience of getting and making adjustments in the UK workforce. This is why we launched The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey. Between March and April 2019, we called for employees, managers, and senior leaders in UK workforces to share their views with us.

See the original blog call for survey respondents

Over 1,200 people took part. This is what they told us:

Workplace adjustments today: the experiences of individuals with disabilities or conditions and their adjustments

  • 73 per cent felt that the adjustments had made a positive difference in removing some of the barriers in the workplace. However, only 19 per cent felt their adjustments had helped to remove all barriers at work.
  • Whilst 44 per cent said that they had all the adjustments they needed, 27 per cent had requested other or alternative adjustments that were not yet in place, and 29 per cent had considered them but decided not to request them. Of the respondents who had not requested adjustments, worries about how they would be perceived by their employer or colleagues played a major contribution:
  • 28 per cent did not want to approach their employer
  • 28 per cent worried that their employer might treat them differently
  • 23 per cent worried that their colleagues might treat them differently
  • Just over half respondents with adjustments (55 per cent) had experienced difficulties with the process.
  • Whilst 50 per cent had waited less than three months for adjustments to be put in place and another 20 per cent between three and six months, almost three in ten (27 per cent) were waiting more than 6 months for their adjustments to be put in place (of which, 8 per cent had been waiting over two years).
  • Just over two fifths (43 per cent) agreed strongly that they were happy with the adjustments they had in place. Another 38 per cent agreed slightly but almost a fifth (18 per cent) disagreed with this statement.

Download our headline findings statistics [PDF]

Download our headline findings statistics [Word Document]

Why #AdjustOurWorkplaces?

Employees’ stories tell us the process of getting workplace adjustments needs to improve. But there’s something else crucial in the data:Only 19 per cent of employees said their adjustments had removed all barriers for them in the workplace – meaning adjustments for individuals is only one part of removing barriers in the workplace. Only 32 per cent of respondents with managerial responsibilities agreed strongly that adjustments and support for staff with a disability or condition was a priority at board or senior leadership level (49 per cent of managers with senior leadership responsibilities). This means that, as well as managers making adjustments for individuals, leaders have to ensure the culture of the organisation is enabling a fit for purpose process to thrive and remove barriers beyond an employee’s own role.

Our workplaces need to change. Given that survey respondents were concerned about how colleagues as well as managers and senior leaders perceive someone who works with adjustments, every single employee, every role, at every level has an important part in transforming the experience of individuals getting and working with adjustments.

What next?

#AdjustOurWorkplaces is the project hashtag under which we will be discussing the findings of our research in more depth with other organisations, employees, and managers. Throughout 2019-2020, we will be releasing a series of research papers, calling for expert testimonies from within our Member and Partner organisations, and will be running events to discuss and learn from the stories that our 1,200 respondents shared with us.

We thank everyone who took time to complete the survey and give us their feedback. A series of papers and a full research report will be released later in 2019.

Technical note

Business Disability Forum asked their membership organisations, partners and stakeholders, as well as the disability, HR and business press and social media to share a link to an online survey about workplace adjustments. The questionnaire explored the experiences and perceptions of getting, and working with, adjustments in the workplace. Employees and managers were asked to take part; the only criteria in place was that they should be UK based and that, if self-employed, respondents should be working with organisations on long term contracts.

The survey link remained open for four weeks from 11 March to 8 April 2019. Taking into account various routing to relevant questions, the average completion time was just under 10 minutes.

Of course when an invitation to a survey is disseminated in this way, those who respond are self-selecting and will not represent the offline world or those who are not associated to the channels disseminating the survey link. This being the case, we cannot report the findings as a representative measure of behaviour and attitude across the whole of the UK. However, each and every response is someone’s story and the feedback is incredibly valuable. This is a large body of evidence. Due to the fact that over 1,200 individuals took the time to share their thoughts and experiences, we can build a very detailed picture of what is working in relation to adjustments and what challenges we still face. We now have the ability to give informed opinion on what adjustments are most common, what is needed, and the perceived value and importance of this process in the workplace.

For more information, please email us at policy@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk or tweet us at @DisabilitySmart using #AdjustOurWorkplaces