Home Workplaces › Reasonable accommodation at work

Reasonable accommodation at work


New Zealand’s employers are more and more aware of the need to create inclusive workplaces. By law, they are obliged to take reasonable measures to ensure the needs of individuals are met. This is known as reasonable accommodation, but what does this look like in practice for employees with experience of mental distress?

Mental distress is common, yet many employers will not know if any of their employees have this experience. There is no legal requirement for employees to disclose, either at their interview or when they start the job, except under very rare circumstances (for example, if they are on medication which affects their ability to operate machinery safely).

However, disclosure may be necessary to ensure employees are provided with reasonable adjustments so they are able to work to their full potential.

Reasonable accommodation is not special treatment. Many employees may need changes to their work environment - for example, a parent who works full time may need time off to collect a sick child from school, or an office worker with lower back pain may require changes to their workstation. Likewise, changes may be needed for people who have experience of mental illness.

The easiest way to find out what these changes may look like is simply to ask. Never make assumptions about what your employee needs, as everyone is different. There are many accommodations that may be requested, but some of the most common include:

  • Job sharing
  • Working from home
  • Flexibility around hours of work, as well as sick and annual leave
  • Being able to attend appointments in work time
  • Setting up a work-station to limit/prevent distractions
  • Providing relevant training for supervisory staff
  • Allowing a gradual return to work after a period of absence
  • Professional supervision

If a requested accommodation seriously impacts on a business or organisation’s productivity or prevents an employee from fulfilling the requirements of their job, employers do not have to make it. But they are expected to keep an open mind about what accommodations they can make and fulfil the requests when they can.

Many employers are surprised at how flexible their workplace can be.

Read more information on reasonable accommodation  

Good reads

GAreth Edwards

Changing the world one word at a time


Gareth Edwards is mad. That’s the term he uses to describe himself... Read more


Investing in wellbeing benefits employees

Wellington City Council

As general manager of building compliance and consents at Wellington City Council... Read more

Ben Lockie image 1 6x4

A supportive workplace makes all the difference


Ben Lockie has everything he could wish for in life: a beautiful... Read more

Richard Twogood 7

Cheeky initiative leads to new opportunities


Richard Towgood from Tapu on the Coromandel is not one to ignore... Read more

Guy Baker 2 031212 003

Support for an experience of depression


Many people find mental illness difficult to acknowledge to themselves and their... Read more

Caroline and Tina mailchimp

Supporting mental health brings rewards

Caroline and Tina

Caroline Marr and Tina Butler have a unique manager-employee relationship built on... Read more

Bob Weir image thumbnail

Normalising mental health conversations


The first thing Bob Weir thinks we need to do about mental... Read more

Lisa Ducat mailchimp

Opening minds in Kiwi workplaces


Lisa Ducat says the coolest part of her job is knowing her... Read more

employment discrimination

Workplace discrimination hidden


Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, Dr Jackie Blue, says she suspects low incidence... Read more

Talking at work


Why talk about mental health at work?

Mental health problems can affect anyone at any time, so it’s critical... Read more

What Works 350x200


What Works

Workplaces that include and support people with experience of mental illness have... Read more



Mental illness disclosure can help employees and employers

Discrimination against people who experience mental illness happens in all walks of... Read more

people woman coffee meeting


The benefits of positive employment

A recent Like Minds, Like Mine research project has been exploring the... Read more



Reasonable accommodation at work

New Zealand’s employers are more and more aware of the need to... Read more