https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2017/02/03/the-workplace-adjustment-passport-ians-story/

The Workplace Adjustment Passport – Ian’s story

Head shot of Rupert McNeil
Rupert McNeil, Civil Service Chief People Officer

As part of my commitment to regularly share stories from staff about how the Workplace Adjustment Passport has helped them, I am very excited to start the new year with another fantastic story. This one is from Ian Mitchell, an Operational Research Manager at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and his support worker Judith Kerem, from CareTrade Charitable Trust.

Ian talks about his experience of Autism and how, for him, the passport has helped a hidden disability become visible.

I‘d like to hear from anyone who would like to share what using the Workplace Adjustment Passport has meant to them. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment on the stories so far.

Ian’s story

Head and shoulders of Ian Mitchell
Ian Mitchell

I have an Autistic Spectrum Condition*.

The Workplace Adjustment Passport gives colleagues additional insight. I shared my workplace adjustment passport with colleagues and one response I received was:

“Until I read the passport, I had not thought of you as having a disability, just that you were just being… you“ (another Operational Research Manager).

This is an extra benefit of the passport; it is part of making a hidden disability visible. My case is one of an increasing number reflecting changes to the way society treats someone with a hidden disability. That is a good thing.

Precision, patience, a sense of justice and creativity through finding new connections led to successes in many areas of my life.

As a child in In the 1970s and 1980s, being different led to bullying, so hiding that difference and deterring those who would bully became ingrained habits.

Creativity comes from creating patterns from small amounts of information from my unusually precise memory. These attributes are common with someone with an ASC. Although ASC is a disability it can be an advantage; the passport explains the workplace adjustments that unlock the advantages.          

When working in another government department, a manager said that he did not know what it was that I was doing, but that it was working for him, so whatever it was would I please keep doing it.  When I left that environment, things changed and I experienced conflict and a spiral into illness. It took three years for the health system to assess me as having an ASC.

I have had workplace adjustments in place to help with the major symptoms of my condition, principally to reduce anxiety, which otherwise leads to insomnia and illness since I started at the Department for Business in 2010.

I have noticed that the focus of my adjustments has moved from these physical aspects to more subtle issues, such as communication and management; and the workplace adjustment passport has become the main vehicle for these, concentrating useful information in one place and in one form. 

The purpose of any passport is to enable mobility. If the individual moves to a different job, or if different people move around them, the workplace adjustment passport can be a helpful guide to the best way to support the individual. It enables consistency and can also head off debate and the problems of personal preference and understanding.

I worked on the passport with my line managers and Senior Reporting Officer as well as a consultant from the charity CareTrade, which specialises in helping people with autism get and stay in work. This is important because having a job is one of the best therapies for someone with autism. Currently, only 16% of those with an ASC who can and want to work are in employment within the UK (National Autistic Society 2016).

I hope that my story helps others with theirs. If you would like more details please get in touch.

Ian Mitchell, Operational Research Manager, Economy and Flexible Analysis, Education Funding Agency (EFA)

* Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are generic terms applied to autism and Asperger syndrome.  Both are lifelong developmental disabilities but the level of disorder varies greatly from person to person.  Autism affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways.

Judith the adviser’s story   

Head shot of Judith Kerem
Judith Kerem

I have been working with employers and employees with an ASC since 2000. I have worked within a number of Civil Service departments over this time. I think the development of the Workplace Adjustment Passport is both positive and informative.

I have been working with Ian at what is now the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) since 2015. We have worked together with his line manager and developed the passport to enable Ian to share his workplace adjustments with anyone he feels would benefit from knowing about his ASC – not just his line manager. This has worked well within BEIS but there are still issues when working with external organisations. There is a wider issue around awareness and the fact that most adjustments can be quite small but make the biggest difference.

Each person is unique, as is the way their condition affects them. The passport allows the individual to explain this, along with tips and adjustments already in place. It is also a stepping stone to finding out more information when it is needed, as it can have website links and contact details for further information about the condition. It is a live document that can be updated, but if this is necessary it is important to make sure updates are circulated.

Because the passport also has the advantage of not being department-specific, it can be taken from one role to another if you decide to change roles. It is a key in working towards better inclusion and understanding of conditions and disabilities, especially ‘hidden’ ones such as ASCs.

For further information about autism in the workplace please visit the CareTrade website at www.care-trade.org or contact judith.kerem@caretradeuk.org

Judith Kerem, Development Director, CareTrade Charitable Trust

Further information

The Workplace Adjustment Passport is available on departmental intranet sites and from Civil Service Learning here.

You can also find the following products on Civil Service Learning:

'A great place to work' logoThe Civil Service Workplace Adjustment Team also offers a ‘review’ service for employees or line managers finding it difficult to secure workplace adjustments. This service is available to everyone, regardless of whether their department has signed up to the case-management side of the Workplace Adjustments Service. The review may involve an intervention by the Workplace Adjustments Team, which can, alternatively, simply provide specialist advice.

You can contact the Civil Service Workplace Adjustment Team on 0114 294 8902 or at cswat.reviewroute@dwp.gsi.gov.uk.

If you would like to share your story on how the Workplace Adjustment Passport has helped you, it would be great to hear from you. You can contact us by email: cshr.casework@csep.gov.uk.

8 comments

  1. Comment by Rachael Etebar posted on

    Ian
    Thank you for your bravery in sharing your story; I am sure that it will help and inspire others.

  2. Comment by Ian Mitchell posted on

    Thank you for your kind words, Rachael.

  3. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Thank you Ian for sharing your journey in such an open manner. I have to be honest in that I was totally unaware of both ASC and ASD until I read your blog and I want to congratulate you, Judith and your Line Manager for dealing with this is a positive way.

    I would agree that the Workplace Passport System is a fantastic initiative and I have met a few people who like you who have been given the opportunity to use their talents in a constructive way.

    I too hope that it will inspire others.

  4. Comment by Emma posted on

    Thank you for writing this blog and sharing your experience, Ian. Having autism myself I can somewhat relate to your story and find it very encouraging to see your positivity and success. I very much agree that whilst being a disability there are many advantages can come with having an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Often all that's required is just a bit of understanding.

  5. Comment by Kevin posted on

    Thanks for sharing your story Ian.

    I think we can all agree with your sentiment that, in addition to removing immediate barriers, the passport should enable mobility between roles and across the Civil Service generally.

    My own experience is that this is not so straightforward .

    Often, when moving to a new role/manager, the immediate reaction of the manager to a Workplace Passport is to question it's validity - even of the most modest previously agreed adjustment.

    Some managers will want full details about the disability/medical conditions in order for them to decide whether any of the passported adjustments are required.

    This seems to fly in the face of the intension and purpose of the Passport, to provide seamless support from role to another or movements to new management areas.

    Whether this is down to historic ways of working and/or archaic attitudes towards disability, it does seem that for some managers, reasonable adjustments are regarded as advantages or "privileges" in their gift - which can be questioned or removed at will.

    For the Passports to work effectively, for everyone, it is vital that as much effort is made educating managerial levels of their duties and obligations as well as publicising the potential benefits to our disabled colleagues

    • Replies to Kevin>

      Comment by Rupert McNeil posted on

      Hi Kevin,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and sharing your own experience of using the Workplace Adjustment Passport. I am sorry to learn it was not as positive as Ian’s.

      Improving the provision of workplace adjustments is a key priority for the Civil Service, and is something I am committed to. We are looking at ways to continuously improve staff experience at work, which is why your feedback is important.

      Our aim of sharing these stories is to promote the benefits of using the Passport and to raise awareness of how it can be used. However, I recognise there is additional work to do. I agree with your comment that for Passports to be effective, employees and line managers need to work in partnership.

      The Workplace Adjustment Passport can be used to record discussions that take place between a member of staff and their line manager about the type of adjustments that have been agreed at that time and in those circumstances, but it can also provide a strong basis to start conversations if there has been a change. If there is a change of circumstances, such as a new role or a change in condition, all adjustments need to be reviewed to make sure they remain effective. The Passport should negate the need to start from the beginning and provide a clear picture of what has worked previously.

      It may be the case that some adjustments cannot be accommodated following a change in condition or role. For example, if the IT systems are not compatible, or if further information is required. But if an adjustment cannot be implemented the business must provide an explanation as to why.

      Recruitment in the Civil Service is on merit, based on fair and open competition, which means that your workplace adjustment should not prohibit you from applying for a new role.

      I would encourage anyone who is experiencing any difficulties at work, or who requires a workplace adjustment, to speak to their line manager straight away, and then, if necessary, their countersigning manager, HR or Workplace Adjustment Team.

  6. Comment by Lynsey Murray posted on

    Hi Ian

    Thanks for sharing your story, really good to see how the passport has helped you and to find out more about ASC.

  7. Comment by Kevin posted on

    In Judith's story stresses that the passport:

    "has the advantage of not being department-specific, it can be taken from one role to another if you decide to change roles. It is a key in working towards better inclusion and understanding of conditions and disabilities, especially ‘hidden’ ones such as ASCs."

    This is not my experience when recently, I changed from one to a not dissimilar role (both within HMRC).
    The mechanics of this means that the WAP will be "reviewed" on move to different managers, roles, departments etc

    In itself this is not unusual or unexpected, although for me it was 2 months after the move. During which time (despite asking) I was left uncertain as to whether the adjustments were still in operation or not.

    On the "review" one of the first questions I was asked by my new manager, was why I had applied for the position if I had medical conditions that required reasonable adjustments.

    The question was poignant to say the least.

    My manager has so far been unable to endorse my WAP because they stated they had no knowledge of me personally or my medical conditions (which are hidden like Ian's). I am left waiting on a decision on whether another OH report is required (I've had 4 in a 2 year period).

    I am left with the distinct impression that the aim is to eliminate or avoid the reasonable adjustments previously agreed (by various managers)

    While it is heartening to read the positive stories of many, I feel we need to take pause and recognise the stories of those disabled colleagues who are still not being properly treated in our Civil Service and to recognise that simply repeating the intended positive benefits of the Passport does not make them a reality.