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Workplace needs assessment: an employer's guide (free template)

Workplace needs assessments help you create an inclusive working environment where every employee can thrive.

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What is a workplace needs assessment?The importance of workplace needs assessmentsHow a workplace needs assessment worksExamples of workplace needs assessment reasonable adjustments

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  • A workplace needs assessment is a tool used by employers to identify reasonable adjustments for their employees.
  • Workplace needs assessments help create an inclusive and supportive working environment.
  • Workplace needs assessments differ from Health Needs Assessments because they're tailored to individual employees and can especially benefit neurodivergent workers with the challenges they face at work.
  • A workplace needs assessment can be obtained through the government's Access to Work grant or by using external providers.
  • During a workplace needs assessment, the assessor will gather information about your employee's job during a one-to-one discussion and provide a report that outlines tailored solutions to improve their working life.

What is a workplace needs assessment?

A workplace needs assessment is a tool used by employers to identify any reasonable adjustments needed in order for one of their employees to do their job properly. While they can be especially beneficial in accommodating the needs of neurodivergent employees, workplace needs assessments can also be used more broadly to assess and address the various challenges your employees might face at work. 

Unlike a workplace Health Needs Assessment, which gathers anonymous health information about a company’s workforce, a workplace needs assessment is tailored to an individual employee and their specific job. That means that an autistic employee and an employee with ADHD — two neurodivergent conditions — doing the same role in a company will both need their own workplace needs assessment. It also means that if one of those employees moves to a new role within the company, a new workplace needs assessment will examine the scope of their different role.

Ultimately, the goal of a workplace needs assessment is to help you create an inclusive and supportive working environment, where every member of your team can thrive.

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Download a free tailored adjustments agreement template

Create a formal record of the reasonable adjustments that support employees with a neurodivergent condition, disability or other health condition.

The importance of a workplace needs assessment

As an employer, you’ll know that embracing a diverse workforce is essential in creating an inclusive and productive workplace.

But, what does that mean exactly? Well, let’s look at neurodiversity as an example in a bit more detail. The nature of neurodiverse conditions (e.g. dyslexia, autism, ADHD, OCD, Tourette’s syndrome) means it’s easy for neurodivergent employees to be misunderstood: they might struggle with prioritising, appear too direct or inflexible, or face sensory and social challenges. And yet, neurodivergent workers have also been found to have some of the most sought-after skills in the modern world of work, like high productivity, razor focus, loyalty, creativity, empathy…the list goes on.

But to unlock these skills, neurodivergent employees often need specific support in their role. And for that to happen, their employer needs to understand the challenges they face and any necessary changes that will help.

And that’s where a workplace needs assessment comes in.

As well as helping you build a fully inclusive workplace, a workplace needs assessment enables you to provide the exact support a neurodivergent employee — or any employee with a disability or Specific Learning Differences – requires to do their job well.

Remember, as an employer, you have a duty of care for your team’s physical and mental health, safety, and welfare, and a workplace needs assessment is an important part of this responsibility. 

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How a workplace needs assessment works

If you have an employee — existing or a new hire — who could benefit from a workplace needs assessment, you have two routes available to you. The first is to make use of the government’s Access to Work grant and the second is to use an external workplace needs assessment provider. Let’s take a look at both options in more detail.

Access to Work 

Access to Work is a government grant in England, Scotland, and Wales that funds practical support to help employees with a disability, health, or mental health condition start or stay in work. The funds cover any reasonable adjustments your employee needs to do their job properly. 

There isn’t a set amount of money available as each individual has their own needs, but the grants are capped to a certain amount each year: between 1 April 2023 and 31 March 2024, this cap is £66,000.

Employees need to apply to Access to Work themselves and if they’re eligible, Access to Work will pay for a workplace needs assessment. Following the assessment, your employee will find out how much money they’ve been awarded and what reasonable adjustments Access to Work has recommended for their role. 

In some cases, your employee might already know what support they need: in this case, a workplace needs assessment won’t be carried out. Instead, Access to Work will skip ahead to discussing what financial support your employee gets and best how to use it.

As the employer, you may be asked to contribute towards the costs of adjustments if your employee has worked with you for more than 6 weeks or if your company employs 50+ people.

For more information, take a look at the Access to Work fact sheet for employers.

External workplace needs assessment providers

An alternative option is for you, the employer, to contact an external workplace needs assessment provider. Figures published in the Disability News Service suggest significant delays in the processing of Access to Work claims, meaning many disabled workers are waiting for support: at the end of May 2023, the queue was reported to be 23,289.

External providers of workplace needs assessments promise a fast, bespoke service that guides you and your employee through the process, as well as ongoing support afterwards. Costs seem to vary, with the British Dyslexia Association quoting £450 (+VAT) and Exceptional Individuals quoting £350 (+VAT). It’s worth noting that many external providers supply reports that can be used as evidence when applying for Access to Work funding.

If using an external provider, remember to check their credentials and qualifications: it’s important to work with someone with appropriate experience (i.e. specific to a particular neurodivergent condition) and specialist workplace qualifications. And remember, workplace needs assessments are specific to the individual, so you’ll need to arrange separate assessments for multiple employees.

What to expect from a workplace needs assessment

No matter how you go about arranging a workplace needs assessment, the format of the assessment tends to be the same:

  1. Before the workplace needs assessment, the assessor will get in touch to ask for more information about your employee’s job role within the company, expectations for the assessment, and what difficulties they’ve previously experienced or strategies they’ve tried. This information is often collected via questionnaires and the assessor will ask for a copy of the job description. 
  2. The workplace needs assessment itself takes 1.5-2 hours, and is a one-to-one discussion between the assessor and your employee. During their conversation, the assessor will find out how your employee’s condition is affecting their role. If the assessment is taking place in the office, the assessor may observe your employee at work, and review the equipment and technology they’re using. Some assessors will also ask for a private meeting with you, the employer. They’re generally shorter, around 30 minutes, and are an opportunity to discuss how you can support your employee and find out more about neurodivergent conditions.
  3. Following the assessment, you and your employee will receive a report outlining the reasonable adjustments that may help them in their job. Once you’ve received the report, review the recommendations carefully: making these changes won’t just support your employee’s wellbeing at work, they’ll keep you on the right side of the Equality Act 2010, too.

Examples of workplace needs assessment reasonable adjustments

Reasonable adjustments at work are a classic case of one-size-doesn’t-fit-all. Every employee will have their own experience of work and every company — indeed, every role — is different. Plus, what’s deemed as reasonable by a large corporation may not be quite so reasonable for the seven-person start-up.

As part of the process of implementing reasonable adjustments, we’d recommend using a tailored adjustment agreement to provide a formal record of what’s been agreed. A living document, this agreement will also minimise the need to renegotiate adjustments if your employee changes jobs, is relocated, or is working with a new manager.

Use our free tailored adjustment agreement template to get started 👇

(you can download this further down the page)

A screenshot of Spill's tailored adjustment agreement template
Spill's tailored adjustment agreement template

10 examples of workplace needs assessment reasonable adjustments

  1. Set up a separate workspace for neurodivergent employees to have a quiet place to work away from distractions and general office noise
  2. Give verbal as well as written instructions and offer leaving voicemails rather than written memos for employees who struggle with reading
  3. Provide digital recorders for dyslexic employees to record meetings or presentations rather than take notes
  4. Offer flexible working hours and hybrid working to give employees space in their day and a break from an overly-stimulating office environment
  5. Provide a screen filter for the computer screen and let employees wear noise-cancelling headphones to reduce the risk of sensory overload
  6. Invest in ergonomic equipment like keyboards, mice, trackpads, and chair to keep your employees comfortable
  7. Help your employee get to work if public transport isn’t an option by paying for their taxi fare or for adaptations to their existing vehicle
  8. Invest in mental health with a platform like Spill to provide high-quality mental health support with therapists specialising in neurodiversity
  9. Provide specialist equipment and software to help your employee in their day-to-day tasks, like screen-reading software, a Reading Pen, or speech-to-text software
  10. Arrange for disability awareness training for the team to reduce the stigma, open the conversation, and increase understanding of disabilities at work

The cost of reasonable adjustments

As the employer, you’ll need to purchase any equipment or arrange payment for any other support your employee is entitled to. Remember, Access to Work funding is there to help cover (or reduce) the cost of these adjustments for eligible employees. 

If your employee gets a grant, you may have to share the cost of workplace or equipment adaptations with Access to Work. If your employee has worked for you for more than 6 weeks when they apply for the grant, cost sharing applies and the amount you’ll pay also depends on the size of your company:

Company size Access to Work cost sharing contribution
1-49 employees £0
50-249 employees First £500, then 20% of anything up to £10,000
250+ employees First £1,000, then 20% of anything up to £10,000

Any costs over £10,000 are covered by Access to Work.

All this talk of money might be daunting so it’s important to know that reasonable adjustments don’t have to be costly or complicated: even a small, no-cost change can make all the difference for someone struggling to navigate the ‘neurotypical’ working world.

Making changes to build an inclusive working environment can be daunting: we hear you. But it’s so important: for your business, for your wider team, and for the employees that need specialist support. Take your time, ask for help, and do your research. To help get you started, we’ve compiled a list of useful links covering everything from Access to Work to specific neurodivergent conditions:

👓 Generally useful information:

🧠 Neurodiversity-specific information:

📚 Specialist resources from Spill:

How much does a workplace needs assessment cost?
What are the benefits of a workplace needs assessment?
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Download a free tailored adjustments agreement template

Create a formal record of the reasonable adjustments that support employees with a neurodivergent condition, disability or other health condition.

Spill works with fully qualified BACP- or NCS-registered counsellors with 80+ areas of expertise, including ADHD and OCD, so your team can get the specialist support they need.

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