Building an equitable global accommodations policy
Disability is a form of natural human diversity. Almost everyone will experience disability in their lifetime, and the experiences can be vastly different, even within a single diagnosis or label. Disabled people fall into different social identity buckets, meaning disability is often a highly intersectional experience. As it stands, “people with disabilities are the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the world. This untapped source of employment includes more than 750 million individuals,” writes Valentini Kalagyrou.
Yet, only 19.1% of people with at least one disability were employed in 2021 in the US, compared to 63.6% of people without disabilities. This huge gap is driven by the numerous barriers disabled people face when entering the workforce. Many of these restrictions are related to ableism, defined broadly as discrimination or social prejudice against disabled people, in favor of non-disabled people. Ableism introduces many conscious and unconscious biases in the hiring process and employee experience.
One significant way organizations can take action to help remove workplace barriers for disabled people is by providing accommodations and adjustments.
In this article, we explain what accommodations and adjustments are, Culture Amp’s approach, and best practices for implementing these policies.
What are reasonable accommodations and adjustments?
Workplace accommodations and adjustments are modifications or changes made reactively for an individual with a disability on an as-needed basis to provide equal employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities. They are intended to help employees receive the support necessary to perform 100% of their essential job functions.
Examples of accommodations/adjustments:
- Improved physical accessibility in the workplace (e.g., Wheelchair accessible restrooms)
- Job restructuring (e.g., Modifying essential and marginal job functions)
- Access to products, equipment, or software (e.g., Screen readers, speech-to-text software)
- Flexible work schedule
- Ability to work remotely, or reduced expectations of in-office time
In the United States, companies are only required to provide “reasonable” accommodations to disabled employees.
Reasonable accommodations originated in the context of the United States Civil Rights Act of 1968 to safeguard against discrimination on the grounds of religious practice. The concept was applied to disability as part of the United States Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability for federal contractors and those employed by programs receiving federal funds. The definitions and protections specified in this act were then carried forward by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications.
It’s important to note while these laws improved disabled people’s access to the workplace, the requirement that companies only provide accommodations that are deemed “reasonable” (usually defined by non-disabled people) has often perpetuated inequities. For example, many companies did not consider remote work a reasonable accommodation until much of the non-disabled workforce was required to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Australia’s Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 prohibits “indirect discrimination,” which has been interpreted as a requirement that employers provide reasonable adjustments to disabled employees. In the U.K., the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 legislates the duty of employers “to make adjustments” for disabled employees in any situation where a disabled employee is placed at a significant disadvantage compared to non-disabled employees.
Currently, over 45 countries have anti-disability discrimination laws and other disability-specific laws.
How Culture Amp is taking action to break down barriers for our disabled Campers
Culture Amp values all of our Campers’ contributions and accomplishments. As of 2022, 8.6% of all Campers (what we call employees at our company) reported that they’re disabled.
We’ve always offered reasonable workplace accommodations and adjustments, as is legally legislated across the various countries where we operate. We believe accommodations and adjustments are pivotal to breaking down barriers to employment and retention among the disabled community.
However, we’ve come to realize that offering reasonable accommodations isn’t enough. Through conversations with and feedback from our disabled Campers, we realized the necessity of creating an intentional process around accommodations/adjustments that removes the friction and fear that often comes with asking for them.
In 2022, Culture Amp formally launched our Global Accommodations & Adjustments Policy. Up until this point, we followed compliance requirements in each of our regions for employees in that specific region, but lacked a documented process. In order to provide a more equitable experience for all Campers, we developed a global policy. This new policy and process aimed to create a more inclusive environment where all employees can readily and efficiently ask for and receive the support they need to reach their full potential at work.
Our Global Accommodations & Adjustments Policy was designed around three key principles: beyond compliance, privacy-forward, and Camper-driven.
1) Beyond compliance
After researching regional disability laws, Culture Amp chose the most progressive of each local law to apply to our Global Accommodations & Adjustments Policy. For example, while Australian Campers under Australian regulations had to undergo a probationary period before asking for accommodations, under the new policy, Campers in any region can ask for accommodations as soon as they accept their offer.
Moreover, Culture Amp doesn’t require a formal medical diagnosis of disability to start the accommodations process, given historical barriers to access to diagnosis for marginalized groups. We also don’t require that Campers share specific information about their disability, including what their disability is.
We allow Campers to determine the appropriate accommodation or adjustment with support from People Partners (HR) and People Leaders (managers). We do not prescribe the solution for the employee. However, we do provide resources such as Job Accommodations Network (JAN) to help Campers determine what kind of support they need. We also include resources about regional services available through the local government.
All information about accommodations is shared only with Campers who need that information to do their jobs and stored in the private medical file in our HRIS. Restrictions on sharing information about accommodations even extend to the Camper’s People Leader, who is only looped in on a need-to-know basis.
Tips for putting equitable accommodations policies in place
Our new policy soft-launched in November 2021, and since then, we’ve found that the changes we’ve made have helped increase the adoption and utilization of our accommodations program.
Below, we share a few tips based on our experiences creating and implementing the new policy. Incorporating these tips into your approach can help you move beyond simple compliance and toward meaningful inclusion for every employee:
- Don’t require a formal diagnosis: Not every employee is comfortable disclosing their disability.
- Simplify access: Make asking for support as easy as reaching out to an HR representative at the organization.
- Trust your employees: Partner with your employees and their care team to understand and meaningfully accommodate their needs.
- Get creative: Think outside the box in terms of how you provide the support your employees need and how you communicate information around your policy. For example, consider presenting policy information in multiple formats to be inclusive of neurodiverse employees.
- Upskill your HR Team on accommodations and equity: Encourage partnership between your HR and DEI teams, including holding training on disability inclusion.
- Communicate and normalize the policy: Communicate often about the policy, such as during ERG presentations, onboarding sessions, company all-hands meetings, etc.
Understand the current state of DEI in the workplaceRead the report
Evolving our approach
Intentionally implemented accommodations and adjustments policies are key to creating a truly equitable workplace and improving our approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion. While we have made significant progress, we want to do more.
Our next evolution will be around internal empowerment. We want to explore how we can deepen the integration and normalization of accommodations into ways of working. This includes enhancing our HR team's technical specialization, deepening our People Leaders' education, and improving guidance for Campers to grow their confidence in our program.
Equitable Design Lead, Culture Amp
People Partner Director, Culture Amp