top of page

Workplace Accommodations

Provide Reasonable Adjustments to the Job for a Period of Time
(not for ever)


Providing workplace accommodations - there are lots of different terms used to describe these including alternative duties, modified work, selected duties and ‘light’ duties.


The most important thing about workplace accommodations is that they should be temporary not permanent.

  • Temporary job modifications allow the person to continue working while they recover

  • Permanent job modifications mean that the person has a new job description


The key practical issue is to work out what is reasonable in the way of temporary job modifications. There is no formula for this!



Supportive workplaces generally need only provide reasonable job modifications or adjustments for a limited period of time.


Graduated (graded) programmes to return to full-time work are effective, and usually simple to set up and manage. For common health problems and minor injuries they require periods of days, or a few weeks at most.




A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that enables a worker to perform essential job functions. The purpose is to enable the employee to stay at work, or return to work, while they are recovering from symptoms of common health problems.


Provision of reasonable job accommodation is the foundation of a supportive workplace. It is no one's interest to make, or agree, to unreasonable requests. This means that co-workers, line managers, and others should not be disadvantaged; and the employer should not experience excessive difficulties. It is all about common sense: ‘what will make it possible for this person to stay at work (at least part-time)?’


There are issues that may arise, such as:

  • The sick or injured worker may have to deal with co-workers who resent having to take over some of his or her work and therefore feel that the worker has managed to get an ‘easier’ job.

  • Line managers may be required to fulfil production quotas in spite of accommodating a returning worker, and may not have the work that such accommodation requires fully acknowledged.


These can be dealt with effectively. Workplaces should create individualised plans that anticipate and avoid these pitfalls, and will be much more likely to have better outcomes.


Temporary Workplace Accommodations


1. Alter the work tasks or environment to reduce physical and psychological demands

Examples: reduce reaching, provide seating, reduce weights, reduce pace of work, reduce task frequency, enable co-worker help, increase task variety


2. Alter the work organisation

Examples: flexible start/finish time, reduced work hours/days, added rest breaks, graded return to work (achievable level, increase on regular quota)


3. Change the job

Examples: allow work at home, selected duties, co-worker as ‘buddy’


4. Flexibility

Examples: achievable goals scheduled at start of each day, allow reasonable time to attend therapy appointments



Supportive Workplaces do whatever it takes to help someone with a health problem to stay at, return to, and remain in work

Identify problems Early, and Respond Rapidly

Identifying Suitable Duties


The goal of suitable duties is to help the worker return to their usual job and hours. This means they:

  • Should be useful work that’s valuable to the company or organisation

  • Are temporary duties that the worker is able to do that assist with recovery

  • Can be similar to the worker's usual duties, but don’t have to be


Practical Tip: it is useful to think of two types of suitable duties:

  • Modified duties - the worker's usual duties and/or the equipment they use are adjusted

  • Alternative duties - the worker performs completely different tasks from those they usually do


There are lots of different options to consider, and these can be combined in any way:

  • Performing modified duties, or alternative duties

  • Working in their usual area within your organisation, or a different area

  • Working their usual hours, or reduced hours


Coming Up With Ideas For Suitable Duties


Check to see if the fit note contains any suggestions.


Line Managers can think about all the jobs your organisation has available and the current skills of the worker. Could they train to perform a different role temporarily? Could they supervise, mentor or train others?

Consider work that tends to sit on the back-burner, or good ideas you haven’t had time to implement. Could you temporarily re-deploy staff while your worker recovers? Your employee may be able to switch jobs with a workmate during recovery. If your employee will never be able to return to their pre-injury job, consider making the re-deployment permanent.


Could you change the way the worker does tasks they find difficult? For example, consider regular changes in body position. Could get the worker to do lots of different tasks. Could you temporarily incorporate more rest periods into the job?


It's helpful to be aware of the timing of suitable duties for part time or shift workers. These workers may have organised their routine to take into account child care, the care of other relatives or study.

When trying to identify suitable duties ask yourself:

  • What are the tasks the worker usually carries out?

  • How are these tasks carried out (methods, techniques and processes)?

  • What are the skills, knowledge and abilities needed to carry out the usual role?

  • Is the task performed for a short period of time or a long period of time?

  • Does the task occur frequently during the working day/week?

  • Can the task be done independently from other tasks?

  • Can the task be safely performed by one person?

  • Does the task have a quality standard?

  • Is the work environment unusually hot or cold?  Is this safe for the worker?

  • Is the worker taking medication that might affect their concentration?


Workers can help by making suggestions to their line managers about what might be the best option. For example:

  • Modified duties with usual hours

  • Modified duties with reduced hours

  • Alternative duties with usual hours

  • Alternative duties with reduced hours


Practical Tip: try having a 'brainstorming' session. This could involve the worker, line manager, and other colleagues. It can be a great way of coming up with innovative ideas. Also, it helps to ensure that everyone is supportive of the approach.





  • Do you have a list of tasks to be done that never get actioned?

  • What needs to be prepared for future projects in the next three to 12 months?

  • processing tax receipts

  • data entry and checking

  • filing and re-organising business files


  • Does your business have needs for any extra promotion?

  • phone sales or calling clients

  • developing content for promotions

  • conducting market research on competitors

  • doing a small scale client satisfaction survey

  • analysing business sales information

  • updating client contact databases


  • Do any other areas of your business need an extra hand or temporary support?

  • cleaning up/organising around the work site

  • researching/buying equipment for the business

  • re-organising bookshelves to improve access to business documents


  • Could your worker help organise a certain part of the business?

  • organising parts and materials

  • finding new suppliers for parts/materials including cheaper or better materials


  • Could your worker participate in any training which they can bring back to share in the workplace?

  • computer courses

  • manual handling courses

  • technical skills

Business Improvement

  • developing new systems to further improve the business

  • improve current business processes

  • write part content of a training manual

  • work on a quality assurance system


  • Could the worker go to another department?

  • Could the worker exchange with another colleague?

  • Could the worker train staff in another area to perform certain skills?

bottom of page