https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2017/11/27/job-carving-and-more/

'Job carving' and more

Philip Rutnam, Perm Secretary for the Department for Transport and Civil Service Disability Champion
Philip Rutnam, Civil Service Disability Champion

Regular readers will know that in regard to disability inclusion, I often comment on the importance of getting the basics right – access to timely and high-quality workplace adjustments. One example of this is ‘job carving’, which is sometimes referred to as ‘job redesign’.

Job carving can take a number of forms, including redesigning an existing job around the needs of an individual employee with a specific disability or creating a new role; for example, when an employee returns to work following a serious illness, such as a stroke. It can also be a by-product of two individuals apportioning respective job roles as part of a job-share arrangement.

I am pleased to advise that the Civil Service is leading the way in this area by developing best practice job carving guidance, endorsed by Penny Mordaunt, then Minister of State for Disabled People, Work and Health, who kindly volunteered to write a foreword. I would encourage all line managers to take the time to read the guidance as a useful resource on workplace adjustments, alongside the Workplace Adjustment Line Manager Best Practice Guide.

Understanding Stammering: a guide for employers  

Another excellent piece of guidance which I would recommend is Understanding Stammering: a guide for employers, developed jointly by Employers Stammering Network and enei to coincide with International Stammering Day, which took place on 22 October.

The guidance is highly informative. For instance, did you know that stammering is not always visible and that people who stammer often develop coping mechanisms to hide it, which can consume a lot of energy? This is explained by the Civil Service Stammering Network, who advise that “for 60% of civil servants with a stammer it is not always apparent”. Also, that people who stammer have strengths and qualities such as resilience, empathy, listening skills and creativity. It highlights potential barriers in work and recruitment processes and offers best practice solutions.

I was particularly pleased to see the Civil Service Stammering Network and the Defence Stammering Network strongly featured within the section on case studies.

Civil Service Leadership Group breakout discussion

At a recent Civil Service Leadership Group meeting, I proposed and chaired a breakout group conversation on “How we can move from disability to ability”, and specifically how we can change the perception of what disability brings to the workplace. Two other linked conversation requests, on “How we can improve our general health and wellbeing” and “Support to colleagues with mental ill health”, were incorporated to give the conversation a wider focus. It was a rich discussion, offering the following insights:

  • we need to stop defining or labelling people by specific illnesses or disabilities, as their physical or mental health disabilities are rarely uniform; we also need to appreciate fluctuations in health and learn to spot and react to changing circumstances; 
  • we need to de-medicalise the issue of mental health; it is more about having a conversation, asking questions such as ‘how are you feeling today', and normalising workplace conversations about feelings;
  • we need to lead with thoughtfulness and be aware of how our behaviour as leaders affects our team; we should encourage our people to have downtime and lead by example, such as making time to complete physical activities, such as taking a lunchtime walk or attending the gym during working hours; and
  • the biggest single issue impacting on our health and wellbeing is stress, which is mainly due to a lack of control; we can do our bit to address this by challenging ‘fake urgency’ practices, such as setting unnecessary, arbitrary deadlines. 

We concluded the conversation by taking away an action to “identify and promulgate the best tools for everyone to look after themselves and their colleagues at work that recognises the fundamental human need that we have to be in control”.

If you know of any useful tools, please email disability.inclusion@cabinetoffice.gov.uk. I will update you on the outcome of the conversation in a subsequent blog.

17 comments

  1. Comment by Rama Siva posted on

    Thank you for this article Philip. Stammering was a huge problem for me. I would love to share my experiences more on how the civil service can improve on how stammers feel when struggling to speak. I worked for the Cabinet Office for 7 years, and even though the stammer didnt prevent me from doing a great job, I wasn't happy with myself.

    • Replies to Rama Siva>

      Comment by Philip Rutnam posted on

      Rama, thanks for your comment. I would encourage you to contact the Civil Service Stammering Network who are involved in fantastic work to raise awareness within the Civil Service. You could also think about writing your own blog as a way of sharing your experiences. I am pleased you are now able to refer to stammering as a huge problem in the past tense and hope that you now feel happy with yourself. As you point out, even when you viewed it as a problem, “it didn’t prevent you from doing a great job”.

  2. Comment by G posted on

    "We need to stop defining or labelling people by specific illnesses or disabilities, as their physical or mental health disabilities are rarely uniform; "

    See, I am not sure I agree with that. If we don't use terms and 'labels' as they are called, even though, yes, there are big differences in the way certain disabilities present, I think discarding such labels can cause harm. Certainly they could lead to issues for people when it comes to accessing certain support mechanisms. If I wasn't "allowed" to call myself Dyslexic or Dyspraxic I wouldn't have been able to access the excellent coping strategies training my Civil Service department provided for me some years ago now that helped me to develop to where I am now.

    If by this statement you mean we should stop calling people "Dyslexic" and start calling people "Person with Dyslexia" (person first language) do you know that the prevailing attitude of Autistic adults is the opposite? Most Autistic adults when polled prefer "Autistic person" to "person with Autism" (identity first language). Person first language is preferred by autism "professionals" like Doctors and Psychologists but shouldn't we be listening to actually Autistic voices on this matter?

    http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/describing.aspx

    Mostly because they don't view their Autism as a wholly negative thing and view it more akin to a fundemental part of their identity. Here is an excellent blog post on the subject:

    http://www.thinkingautismguide.com/2017/11/labels-are-valuable-tools.html?m=1

    • Replies to G>

      Comment by Sharon Endacotte posted on

      Then again, I'm autistic, and I prefer person first language - which kind of proves the point that every experience is different! I am not my autism, but my autism is a part of who I am, and I don't want it to define me. However, I also think it's important to listen to *individual* voices on this and treat them on a case-by-case basis.

      • Replies to Sharon Endacotte>

        Comment by Sharon Endacotte posted on

        (I refer to myself as autistic in this forum simply as shorthand, as it's rather too complex to differentiate the kind of person with autism that I am)

        • Replies to Sharon Endacotte>

          Comment by G posted on

          Yes I agree it is a lot like listening to LGBT people. People should ask people's preferences. I just default to identity-first because I know most of the Autistic Advocates I'm discussed these things with online do.

          • Replies to G>

            Comment by Philip Rutnam posted on

            G, thanks again for your comment and ongoing discussion with Sharon, which has generated several insightful points.

        • Replies to Sharon Endacotte>

          Comment by Philip Rutnam posted on

          Sharon, thanks for your helpful comments concerning the use of language. You make some excellent points that you do not want your autism to define you and that we should treat individuals on a case by case basis.

    • Replies to G>

      Comment by Philip Rutnam posted on

      G, thanks for your comments and helpful links to insightful information on autism and the use of language. The point that the Civil Service Leadership sub-group were making is that people sometimes label others by their disability rather than considering someone as an individual with individual needs. For example, by labelling people it is easy to make incorrect assumptions; such as all people with autism are introverted and great at maths and tasks such as computer programming. The reality is that some people with autism are chatty and sociable, whereas others prefer to avoid small talk. Some people with autism excel in repetitive, structured tasks, whilst others thrive in creative areas. There is an apt quote attributed to Dr Stephen Mark Shore; “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism”, and this is equally applicable to other disabilities.

  3. Comment by Charlotte Smith posted on

    I would just like to say a very big thank you for bringing out the issue of stammering into the open. I had a close relative who stammered and i grew up with this and accepted it as part of who my relative was. So it is something close to my heart.

    Regarding "job carving" what i would say is that there needs to be educational awareness training for all managers on the perverbial workshop floor to teach them that this is not an accessory option but rather an legal requirement under the Eqaulity Act 2010 as reasonable adjustments. I have so called Job Carving in my current role, which has worked very well for me. This is only after me having to fight tooth and nail to get it. However it does concern me that i will have to fight all over again for it should i have a change of line managers. I have been "lucky" in the last 18 months to have had an excellent line manager who has understood my needs.

    However with regarding labelling of people with disabilities, i do appreciate your line of thinking, however it is important still on say job applications to make a potential employer that i am profoundly deaf for example, as the employer will need to cater for my need to have an amplified phone for use in work. Its simply a fact of life with myself. Especially as my profund hearing loss is hidden and i dont use BSL. My speech is excellent and people are generally unaware of my deafness!

    • Replies to Charlotte Smith>

      Comment by Philip Rutnam posted on

      Charlotte, thanks for sharing your thoughts on stammering. Your point about awareness training on job carving encapsulates why we have developed guidance in this area containing practical case study examples. I would encourage you to complete a workplace adjustment passport, if you have not already done so, to ensure the seamless retention of your current job carving adjustment on change of job roles or line manager. Final point, I fully agree that, in advocating non-use of labelling, it is still important that disabled colleagues on submitting job applications let others know that they have a disability and their individual adjustment needs.

  4. Comment by Mick posted on

    1. we need to stop defining or labelling people by specific illnesses or disabilities, as their physical or mental health disabilities are rarely uniform;
    2. we also need to appreciate fluctuations in health and learn to spot and react to changing circumstances;
    3. we need to de-medicalise the issue of mental health; it is more about having a conversation, asking questions such as ‘how are you feeling today', and normalising workplace conversations about feelings;
    4. we need to lead with thoughtfulness and be aware of how our behaviour as leaders affects our team; we should encourage our people to have downtime and lead by example, such as making time to complete physical activities, such as taking a lunchtime walk or attending the gym during working hours; and
    5. the biggest single issue impacting on our health and wellbeing is stress, which is mainly due to a lack of control; we can do our bit to address this by challenging ‘fake urgency’ practices, such as setting unnecessary, arbitrary deadlines.

    No.1 G makes a very good point on this. How can you come forward and say that when I walk through your doors I am no longer Epileptic? There is little enough support in here with my label around my neck. Take it off and I would be out of here before you could blink. It is not all rosy within the Civil Service for disabled employees. And you are right, their physical or mental health issues are not 'uniform' but 'the guidance' is extremely uniform and ALL decisions are made on what it says without variation. This removes all individuality on any decisions made with people....Leading to
    No.2 Fluctuations in health and changing circumstances are not taken into account. If you have a partially controlled or an uncontrolled disability, things like 'trigger points' are set in stone. Never increased if needed, always decreased causing so many problems.
    No.3 "How are you feeling today" is not going to reduce the stress of a person. But I suppose it's a start.
    No.4 Downtime? Give over! I am supposed to have downtime as a reasonable adjustment but I do not get it or the target is missed. A lunchtime walk, well you can't eat at the desk so? A gym in working hours? Must be talking about Whitehall!!
    No.5 Stress. People work under stressfull situations. Churn it out people. Less staff, higher output. Continuous Improvement. 8 years no pay increase. 3% inflation. That is the lack of controll.

    Sorry if I feel it is all a smoke screen or just a bunch of happy thoughts, but, I do not think a smile from a manager who suddenly says "Isn't it nice that your disability has gone in this building." is going to cut it.
    Then again it is Monday morning.

    • Replies to Mick>

      Comment by Philip Rutnam posted on

      Mick, thanks for your comments. In my blog I summarised the key points raised at the CSG meeting and perhaps needed to explain more the context in which they were made:

      No. 1. The group were not proposing that individuals should no longer state that they have a particular disability such as epilepsy, severe dyslexia, etc. Moreover, the point they were making is that we should not label or stereotype colleagues according to their disability and make incorrect assumptions that one size fits all.
      No. 2. Trigger points are guidance, with flexibility for line managers to use their discretion to adjust these, depending on individual circumstances. If Attendance Management policy is applied correctly, these are not “set in stone”. Your comments illustrate the point that the group were making, that line managers should consider colleagues with disabilities on an individual basis.
      No. 3. Agree.
      No. 4. All of us have busy lives, both in and out of work. The point that the group were making is that simple measures, such as taking a walk outside at lunch time in a nearby park or to a local sandwich shop, can be more beneficial for our general health and wellbeing than having our lunch break stationary at our work station. It is about managing the things that we can control rather those that we can’t.

      I am sorry that you feel the blog content is all a smokescreen. I would be happy to arrange for one of my team to meet with you if you wish to discuss your thoughts further. Please email your contact details to me at disability.inclusion@cabinetoffice.gov.uk if you would like to take up the offer.

  5. Comment by Stuart Holttum posted on

    "we need to stop defining or labelling people by specific illnesses or disabilities....."
    "we need to de-medicalise the issue of mental health....."

    I would appreciate your thoughts on how this approach is intended to tie in with Occupational Health referral processes?

    • Replies to Stuart Holttum>

      Comment by Philip Rutnam posted on

      Stuart, thanks for your comments. The point about ceasing to define or label people by specific illnesses or disabilities is still relevant to the Occupational Health process. In requesting occupational health advice, line managers should seek advice based on the specific needs and circumstances of the individual and occupational health advice should also be tailored around the needs of the individual.

  6. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Thank you Philip for your continued support as the Civil Service Disability Champion.

    I would agree with you that the Job Carving concept is a great way to ensure that ALL staff are working in an inclusive enviroment.

    However, from my conversations with colleagues from a few of the Whitehall Departments, they were telling me that there are still occasions where Line Managers are not observing the workplace adjustments passport system and colleagues are being expected to simply get on with doing their job despite the personal challenges they face!

    • Replies to Gavin Thomas>

      Comment by Philip Rutnam posted on

      Gavin, thanks for your comments, I would encourage anyone experiencing difficulty in engaging with their line manager to arrange completion of a workplace adjustment passport, to speak to their departments Workplace Adjustment Team or to access the Central Workplace Adjustment Review route.