‘Disability Passports’ a CWU success story that’s ripe for copying

Credit has been given to the pioneering work carried out by the CWU which led to the introduction of ‘Disability Passports’ in BT amid wider trade union movement efforts to extend their usage to other unionised workplaces.

Following recent research which revealed that 391,000 (one in ten) disabled people dropped out of employment in the UK in 2018, the TUC – in conjunction with the GMB – is promoting the concept of ‘reasonable adjustments disability passports’ as something that should be embraced across British industry.

With detailed TUC analysis of employment statistics revealing that, in addition to the 10 per cent of people with disabilities who quit the workforce last year, a further 555,000 (one in seven) started work with a new employer, the hope is that the wider adoption of disability passports could reduce disproportionately high levels of staff churn amongst a potentially vulnerable section of UK employees.

“Disabled people can leave their jobs for many reasons, but one preventable reason is when employers fail to carry out their legal duty to make, and keep in place, the reasonable adjustments their disabled staff need to do their jobs,” explains a TUC spokesperson.

“We believe it’s vital to find a more successful and unified way of agreeing and recording what modifications need to be put in place, so have produced a model reasonable adjustments employer agreement for reps to agree with their employer , and a template reasonable adjustments ‘passport’ to capture what adjustments have been put in place to eliminate barriers in the workplace.”

In recognition of the striking similarity of the TUC/GMB initiative to what the CWU has already achieved in BT, the TUC invited the union’s national officer for BT Group-wide personnel issues, Dave Jukes, to explain the idea in a special promotional video, which can be viewed here

Recalling how the idea was originally flagged up to CWUHQ from a Midlands-based member with a mental health issue who’d become exasperated at having her reasonable adjustments questioned every time her line manager changed, Dave explains: “She found herself continually having to explain the nature of her disability and the reasonable adjustments she needed to carry out her role.”

In different cases, Dave stresses, reasonable adjustments could include providing specially adapted equipment (like a chair, desk or computer), temporarily changing the duties of the job, changing break times or working patterns, or allowing flexible working or time-off for medical appointments.

Commending the positive approach taken by BT once the idea of introducing a written and jointly agreed record of an individual’s special requirements was proposed by the union – resulting in the company’s introduction of Disability Passports – Dave insists the initiative has proved its worth many times over.

“Notwithstanding the concerns expressed at CWU Annual Conference in May that BT’s public pronouncements of its pride at being a  ‘Disability Confident Employer’ aren’t always fully reflected in the experience of those with underlying health conditions, there’s no doubt that Disability Passports have been a very positive development,” he continues.

“They mean that individuals who have disabilities know there is a written confidential record that means that, if their manager moves on, the new manager will be aware of their disability and the adjustments that are in place.

“This gives people a little bit more dignity in the workplace, but also helps create awareness – not just for the employer but also amongst the individual’s workmates – hopefully preventing the Disability Passport holder from the distress of having to continually re-explain the nature of the disability that they have.”

Dave concludes: “It’s heartwarming that what was originally a pretty pioneering initiative for individuals with disabilities and underlying heath conditions that the CWU successfully secured in negotiations with BT is now being promoted in the wider world of work.”