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Civil Service

Personal Disability Stories: Part 6 - Stella’s story

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

Disabled colleagues often tell me how valuable the Workplace Adjustment Passport is in documenting and capturing their approved workplace adjustment needs. I am, therefore, somewhat surprised, when I raise this at disability events, that a large number of disabled colleagues are not aware that this document exists.

In our latest personal disability series blog, Stella Perrett explains why a workplace adjustment passport is a useful tool for disabled colleagues.

Stella's story

Stella Perrett

I have been disabled from birth with Erb’s Palsy in one arm. This means I cannot lift heavy objects with both arms, or reach above chest height with one arm, and I have poor balance. Two years ago, as a direct result of using one arm for most activities during the past 50 years and more, I suffered a torn shoulder, which meant an operation, time off work, and repeated doctor’s appointments.

I’ve also got Type 2 Diabetes, again requiring regular appointments and check-ups, and have arthritis in my legs, and a heart condition. All these conditions are mostly invisible to colleagues.

To enable me to effectively undertake my role and provide a level playing field, I have the following adjustments: a wrist rest, with a separate additional wrist rest for my right arm, and access to a laptop to allow me to rest my arm and use the touch-mouse when I need to. My line manager is also flexible regarding leave requests for doctor’s appointments.

I joined the Civil Service in January 2009 and currently work for the Planning Inspectorate as a Customer Services Officer. I enjoy interacting with members of the public and finding solutions to their queries or issues. My disability does not prevent me from doing any aspect of this role. Indeed, I believe that it helps me to understand their diverse needs and empathise with the challenges they are experiencing.

In addition to my main job role I am a Union Learning Rep (ULR) and a member of our staff disability network. Every year, the network puts on an eye-catching Disability Awareness Day, using innovative attractions such as ‘Nellie the dinosaur’, who has her own hidden disabilities (as featured in a blog post by Philip Rutnam). We also have stalls at various work training events.

Cardboard dinosaur
Nellie the interactive dinosaur

I make sure that we publicise the Workplace Adjustment Passport and include this in my own ULR ‘welcome pack’ to new members of staff.

Using the passport, you can track and update any adjustments you might need, and it is available for new managers and new departments if you change jobs within the Civil Service. The form can be used to capture all your adjustment needs or, if you prefer, you can create a separate form for each health condition.

The passport provides a vital audit trail of adjustments that your line manager has put in place to assist you in doing your job. If problems occur, it can be used to pursue the CSWAT (Civil Service Workplace Adjustment Team) review route; or as useful information for your union to support you: for example, in case of wrongful disciplinary action over time off related to your disability or condition.

I cannot emphasise too strongly how important I think this document is. None of us knows what is round the corner, even if we are in the best of health. None of us can expect to stay in the same team or even workplace, with the same manager, for years – today, it is all hot-desking and flexible working across teams.

This passport saves me having to walk about with a sign round my neck or having to explain everything to every new manager I work for.

Stella’s account is timely. We have recently released an updated version of the passport to remove areas of duplication and make it easier for staff and line managers to complete. I would encourage all staff who require workplace adjustments to speak to their line manager about documenting these on a workplace adjustment passport. For staff who already have a workplace adjustment passport, you may wish to consider transferring details of your approved adjustment(s) to the new workplace adjustment passport form.

Line managers have a key role to play in this process. So, I am pleased to advise that, in addition to the workplace adjustment passport form, we have updated the Workplace Adjustment Line Manager’s Best Practice Guide. This contains helpful information on the types of adjustments you may wish to consider for specific disabilities and circumstances.

Finally, I want to thank Stella for sharing details of her disability and highlighting this useful tool.

Further information

Detail from first page of Workplace Adjustment PassportThe Workplace Adjustment Passport is available on departmental intranet sites and from Civil Service Learning here.

You can find a List of Common Workplace Adjustments on Civil Service Learning.

The Civil Service Workplace Adjustment Team ‘review’ service is 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

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  1. Comment by Dexter Maclean posted on

    I am pleased that you have been able to carry out your duties with the assistance of an understanding manager. The adjustments put in place to aid you must be grateful that you don't feel excluded from day to day work and shows that with a bit of empathy from managers and the department that people with disabilities of all types can still contribute.
    Congratulations !!
    It is pity that some managers are ignoring this procedure. This should be discussed during the one to ones. Advising that help is available if required .

  2. Comment by Andrew Howarth posted on

    It's all very well the WAP being there to show a persons list of adjustments. But the original blueprint for the passport was to help staff with disabilities to write about them and come forward in a slightly more private manner. DON'T YOU WANT PEOPLE TO COME FORWARD?
    Not everyone wanted to come forward too openly (as they still do not), the original idea offered, was for people to enter a forthright picture of what their disability was, and the problems they had on to the paper for their manager to read privately. Any discussion after that was their choice to their benefit. Also if they were moving to new teams and were nervous about the same thing the paper would be sent ahead at the persons acceptance for the new manager to obtain a basic understanding prior to receiving them to their team. Any further openness was only agreed by the member of staff. There was a good acceptance by both the PCS and the Group in Preston when this was first sent round for opinion. But obviously someone saw a good idea and I was told "This will be sent to a Tech Team and removed from your hands." A while later the WAP appeared with great distinction to its inventors. After all these years.... Yes it still hurts.

  3. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Thank you Stella for sharing your story. I am glad that have had the support of your Line Manager and with some reasonable adjustments you are able to carry out your role effective.

    In response to Sir Philip Rutnam's surprise that a number of staff were unaware of the existence of the Workplace Adjustments Passport. I have come across quite a number of colleagues who were unaware of this document. I am also aware of a few instances where staff had completed the passport but they Line Manager had taken no action to put into place reasonable adjustments. Especially, with regards to Mental Health!

    So hopefully your release of the updated version will help overcome this situation.

  4. Comment by Naomi Wood posted on

    Thank you Stella for sharing your story