Disability and adjustments

There is no unambiguous legal definition of disability within the meaning of the Non-Discrimination Act. A ‘disabled person’ is defined as a person with a permanent physical, mental, intellectual or sensory disability that may prevent them from participating in working life fully and effectively equally with other workers. Such a disability may be congenital or caused by an accident. Disability can also be a consequence of a chronic disease.

The employer must make the necessary reasonable adjustments in the current situation so that the disabled person can get a job, perform their duties and progress in their working life.

In order for a disabled person to find employment and perform their job duties, it may be necessary for an employer to make certain arrangements to working hours or working conditions, acquire certain tools or make structural changes to the workplace to ensure accessibility. Such measures are known as adjustments. Accommodation is needed when a disabled person would not be able to cope with the work without adjustment. Where appropriate, adjustments shall be made when hiring a disabled person, during employment and shall be taken into account when considering the termination of employment of a disabled person. 

The need for adjustments usually manifests itself in practice by requesting adaptation by a disabled person or, for example, by their assistant, if they consider it necessary. 

Adjustments may concern

  • the physical environment (obstacles to movement)
  • tools (dimensions, assistive devices)
  • working arrangements (work organisation, working hours, use of an assistant).

The adjustments shall be appropriate, i.e. appropriate and safe, and shall not pose a risk.

However, only reasonable adjustments (reasonable accommodation) may be required of the employer. The costs of adjustments must not put a disproportionate burden on the employer's finances.

When assessing whether adjustments are reasonable, the needs of the person with disabilities, and the size and financial standing of the workplace, the nature and extent of its activities as well as the estimated costs of the adjustments must be taken into account. The effective ability of the employer to make adjustments will also be taken into account. Such a situation can happen for example, if the owner of the property who leased the premises to the employer does not allow physical adjustments to be made to the premises.

If it is possible for the employer to receive a subsidy contributing to such adjustments, this must be taken into account in assessing reasonableness. However, the starting point for assessing reasonableness is always the need for a disabled person in each individual situation.

For the employer to deny an employee reasonable accommodation constitutes discrimination.

If a disabled person considers that they have been discriminated against because of being denied reasonable accommodation, the employer must on request provide a written explanation of their reasons for said denial. This obligation applies both to recruitment and to any decisions made during and at the termination of the employment relationship. 

Disability and adjustments - työntekijälle


Instructions for employee

1. If you consider that you need adjustments to cope with work on the basis of disability, contact your employer to tell them what kind of adjustments you need

2. If the employer has refused the adjustments you have requested from you and you consider that you have therefore been discriminated against, ask the employer for clarification of the grounds for this procedure

3. If, despite your request, the employer does not provide you with a written explanation of the refusal of reasonable adjustments, you can contact the occupational safety and health authority's telephone helpline.

If necessary, you can get instructions and advice from our Telephone Service on how to deal with the matter at the workplace. In our telephone service, it is possible to discuss with an inspector who is familiar with discrimination whether there may be a case of discrimination. If necessary, you will be given instructions on how to bring the matter to the occupational safety and health authority.

Disability and adjustments - työnantajalle


Instructions for employer

1. The need for adjustment and its reasonableness must always be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

2. The adjustments required by a disabled person shall not affect the recruitment decision.

3. Find out and assess the need for and the appropriateness of adjustments, if necessary together with occupational health care and/or workplace occupational safety and health organisation, taking into account privacy provisions.

4. Also discuss the appropriateness of adjustments with the disabled person.

5. If a job applicant or employee requests clarification on the refusal of adjustments, reply to them in writing. As an employer, you are rightly obliged to tell them why no adjustments have been made.