According to the AbsenceSoft PWFA Readiness Survey, most employers (72%) are anticipating an increase in requests for accommodation. These requests can be pregnancy-related or can relate to other disabilities. With a rise in requests and more laws like PWFA coming into place, staying compliant and keeping workers productive with reasonable accommodations is only getting more complicated. We’ve helped many customers streamline their accommodations program, so we put together a quick FAQ to help guide you through your next accommodation request.
If you’d like a deep dive into improving the way you manage your ADA program, download our free guide: Best Practices for Modern ADA & Accommodation Management.
What is a reasonable accommodation?
Under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or the way things are usually done during the hiring process. These minor changes and supports help level the field for people with disabilities. It gives them a more equal chance to get a job, as well as be more productive when they work. An accommodation is considered “reasonable” if it does not create an undue hardship for the employer.
Who is required to make an accommodation request?
Reasonable accommodation requests can come from the employee or applicant with a disability themselves or their family members. Requests do not always follow a formal process. They can be conveyed in many ways. For example, through an email to HR or by telling a manager.
Having a standardized location for employees to submit a request is best practice. This way, you can ensure that all accommodations requests are fulfilled, and your team can properly follow up. Accommodation software that has an Employee Self Service feature can help simplify the intake stage. This will ensure that employees and managers are submitting their requests into one system.
Who qualifies for an accommodation?
Employers with 15 or more employees (including state and local governments) are required to provide reasonable accommodations to anyone with a disability who applies for a job or works for them. The law prohibits discrimination based on disability in every part of a person’s employment. In order to be protected by the ADA, a person with a disability must also be qualified to perform the essential functions of the job.
According to the ADA, a person has a disability if:
- They have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of their life activities
- They have a record of such impairment; or
- They are regarded as having such impairment
What are some examples of accommodations?
Accommodations can vary widely, from schedule flexibility to low-cost equipment like noise-cancelling headphones. Finding the right accommodation that helps employee do their job better is all about working individually with each person to find what works best through a comprehensive interactive process, which we will talk about more soon. Most accommodations are not expensive, and can also make a workplace more inclusive and supportive for everyone. Some of the most common workplace accommodations include:
- Providing specialized equipment
- Improve accessibility in the workplace
- Modifying works schedules
- Providing training
- Allowing remote work
- Allowing service animals in the workplace
To learn more about ways to accommodate specific disabilities, visit our Accommodations Resource Page.
How much do accommodations normally cost?
Many employers believe that providing workplace accommodations is expensive. This could not be further from the truth. A 2022 study from the Job Accommodation Network found that 50% of accommodations cost nothing at all. 43% reported a median one-time cost of $300 or less for accommodations. Seven percent reported a median annual cost of $3,750 for ongoing accommodations—far lower than the cost of losing that employee and having to hire and retrain a replacement (up to $180,000 for an employee making $60,000 per year!). It is an affordable way to enhance productivity and employee well-being.
An eight-step reasonable accommodation checklist
While some HR processes are very clearly defined, workplace accommodations are much more flexible. Title 1 of the ADA requires employers and employees to engage in an “interactive process” to discuss, explore, implement, and monitor workplace accommodations. Fully completing the interactive process for every request is essential for staying compliant and providing a great employee experience. We recommend following these eight steps in your interactive process:
- Recognize the accommodation request
An employer must be aware of the request for accommodation and respond in a timely manner.
- Gather information
The employer should gather information about the employee’s limitations and the specific job tasks and work environment. This may include obtaining medical documentation or consulting with their healthcare provider.
- Search for and explore options
The employer must start to look for options that pertain to the employee’s limitations.
- Ask the employee to suggest an accommodation
The employer and employee should work together to identify possible accommodations that could enable the employee to perform essential job functions.
- Ask the employee’s healthcare provider for suggestions
The employer and the healthcare provider can also work together to identify which accommodations would be more effective.
- Choose the best accommodation
After evaluating each option, the employer should choose the accommodation that is most effective and feasible.
- Implement the accommodation
Once the accommodation is chosen, the employer now needs to implement it and ensure that it is working as intended.
- Monitor the accommodation
The employer should regularly monitor the accommodation to ensure that it remains effective and adjust it if necessary.
How can technology help me manage accommodations?
To simplify the somewhat taunting and subjective accommodation process, many organizations have begun using accommodation management software like AbsenceSoft. With AbsenceSoft, HR professionals can handle requests more efficiently and employees can even request accommodations online. Case notes and medical documentation will be centrally stored and accessible to your entire team. And the interactive process can be fully standardized to ensure equity, as well as personalization for each employee.
Accommodation software saves your team time and makes your accommodations program more equitable. It can reduce the time spent administrative tasks by up to 59%, and track every request in a centralized system.
This gives them more time to engage with employees. The more time you have to engage with employees, the more successful the outcome of each accommodation are likely to be. To learn how software can transform the way you manage workplace accommodations, our ADA experts would be happy to chat.