Workplace adjustments and supports

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Key Points

  • workers are entitled to receive reasonable workplace adjustments
  • workplace adjustments can support you to do your job
  • an Occupational Therapist can help you understand your workplace needs.

What are workplace adjustments?

Workplace adjustments are any changes or additions that help a person with a disability do their job.

They can be used in the recruitment process, job design, work environment and staff training and development.

They can be temporary or long term.

Employer obligations and the law

In Australia, under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA), employers are required to provide workplace adjustments to employees with a disability, if they are deemed “reasonable”, and will not cause “unjustifiable hardship” to the employer. 

What is reasonable?

If the adjustment is necessary, effective and practical to reduce or eliminate barriers at work.

What is unjustifiable hardship?

If the adjustment is proven to be too expensive, time consuming, or will disadvantage other employees.

An example is requesting that a lift is installed in your office building. However, the owner of the building may show that it would cause unjustifiable hardship to modify the building.

What adjustments do I need?

If you don’t know what things might help you in the workplace, it can be helpful to:

  • think about the things that help you at home
  • ask other autistic people what helps them
  • speak with an Occupational Therapist (OT). They can help with understanding your workplace needs and what might help you. Depending on your situation, there may be costs involved with seeing an OT. You can use the Occupational Therapy Australia website to find an OT near you.

Examples of reasonable workplace adjustments:

  • changing office lighting or temperature
  • instructions and policies in written form
  • regular breaks
  • large projects divided into smaller tasks
  • receiving documents prior to meetings
  • single point of contact within the company or organisation
  • extra reading time for documents
  • scheduled check-ins with manager
  • exchanging duties with a co-worker
  • flexible work arrangements
  • plans for expected and unexpected changes
  • labels, timers or visual reminders
  • having your own desk
  • extra time during meetings
  • fidget or sensory tools
  • clear instructions
  • recording meetings
  • sunglasses or headphones
  • a quiet room
  • predictable and consistent work duties.

How to ask for reasonable workplace adjustments

How you ask will depend on your request and your relationship with your supervisor.

If it is a simple adjustment, or you have a good relationship with them, you may only need to have a talk with them.

If you don’t know your boss well or your request is more complex, then an email, letter or a meeting is a good approach. Read more about how to speak up.

When requesting an adjustment, it is important to:

  • be clear about what you need or what you are asking for
  • explain how it will help you do your job better
  • provide information about legal rights and obligations, if needed.

“I find I can concentrate on my work better when I am not distracted by the sound of the air conditioner. Would it be possible for my desk to be moved to the other side of the room?”

Financial assistance for workplace adjustments

Employment assistance fund (EAF) - financial support for people with disability to purchase workplace modifications, training and equipment.

Other work-related support

Mobility allowance – financial assistance for people unable to use public transport

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) can fund employment supports including:

  • personal care supports at work
  • on the job support
  • travel assistance
  • preparing for work and the work environment.

If you have an NDIS plan, you can ask your planner, support coordinator or Local Area Coordinator (LAC), if you have employment supports in your plan.

Helpful resources

How to negotiate workplace adjustments

Workplace accommodations for Autistic people

Workplace adjustments for executive dysfunction

How to identify an accessible and inclusive employer

How to create inclusive and accessible workplaces

Case Story

Story description

Jill finds leaving work at 5pm each afternoon incredibly overwhelming due to the amount of people leaving at the same time. She says to her boss, “I find it overwhelming to leave then with everyone at the end of the day. Would it be possible for me to finish 5 minutes early, so that I can exit the building before everyone else? I am willing to start 5 minutes earlier each morning to make up the time”. Her boss approves her request. The next day, she leaves work 5 minutes early and is able to make it to her car without feeling as overwhelmed. 

Real Life Story