The Importance of Making ‘Reasonable Adjustments’ 

by Sep 28, 2023All Posts, WH&S, Workers Comp

A South Australian business was recently fined $44,000 for failing to make ‘Reasonable Adjustments’ upon an employee returning to work post injury. The injury itself happened outside of work hours and was not sustained via employment related activities. Despite this, the courts reviewed the circumstance and found the employer negligent as they failed to appropriately support the employee to see them return in a gradual and positive capacity. Employer’s need to be aware that although they are not responsible for employee injuries that occur outside of work, it is their obligation to support them back to the workplace, making adjustments, and accommodations as necessary.  

In this specific case, the employer was found negligent as they failed to conduct an extensive assessment of the employee’s condition prior to seeing them return to work. The employee received a recommendation from their surgeon to return to work with light duties for three months, with specific instructions not to engage in heavy lifting. Upon investigation, it was found that the employer rushed this process, having insisted that the employee gain full medical clearance, being fit for all duties’, prior to returning to work. In doing so the employer failed to negate reasonable adjustments to avoid discrimination and therefore neglected their responsibilities under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992. As a result, the employee returned to work and incurred further injury which led to legal action.  

What is a ‘reasonable adjustment’? 

It is critical that employers understand the broad interpretation applicable to ‘reasonable adjustments’. Ultimately, this requires employers to modify working environments and materials to suit individual employee needs upon regular review and employee request. Such as, the provision of assistive technology, flexibility of working hours and locality, or alternative duties.  Under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992, employers are obligated to do everything ‘reasonable’, although what is considered ‘reasonable’ varies from case to case. For example, inputting an elevator for access ‘might’ be considered reasonable, it depends upon the size, demographic, costings, and specific circumstance. In this case, the option of an office on the lower floor of a building with a ramp and door widening adjustment may be deemed as more ‘reasonable’.   

Specifically, the AHR Team can review and identify any areas of concern within your current policies surrounding employee compensation claims and return to work procedures. From here, we can equip you with a framework, providing you with the necessary tools, templates, and checklists to manage these concerns independently or you can choose to partner with the AHR Team as we do it with you, providing expert support and advice. Alternatively, we can step in as an external party to manage this process for you, allowing you to focus on other workplace concerns to benefit your business and productivity.  

If this article resonates with you, call the AHR Team and we can talk you through the return-to-work process, equipping you with the knowledge and tools to review your specific employee case file(s). We can work with you to determine the necessity of Return-to-Work Assessments and Independent Medical Assessments, which will aide in advising your next course of action. OR we can take on the responsibility for you, reducing your headaches as you know that our HR specialists will handle this process on your behalf and that we will action further processes to move forwards (e.g., termination or sick leave). Contact us today on 1800 577 515 for a curtesy discussion of your specific workplace concerns.    

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