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Disability passports and adjustment plans: The top 5 things to do (and not do)

Tailored adjustments plans, disability plans, workplace adjustments plans – whatever you call them, they are a regular topic of discussion with our members across almost every sector. At our last Higher Education Network meeting, our Head of Policy and Research presented some findings about these types of plans and passports, along with five key common ‘fail areas’ for employers to be mindful of and ‘design out’ of their workplace adjustments processes.

1. We often hear from employers that passports have been implemented to “stop people having to request adjustments each time their job or line manager changes”. This is not a wholly accurate reason for implementing passports. Every time something changes for an employee, adjustments should be reviewed and discussed again. The passport is a record of what has already been agreed; employees should not have to keep re-negotiating what has already been agreed, but there should be an adjustments-related conversation each time anything changes. Passports should not stop these conversations from happening whenever something changes.

2. Employers should make sure they are not creating more work for employees just because they have a disability. We commonly hear from disabled employees, “If you say you have a disability, you get more admin to do” or “There’s always a form to fill in [when you have a disability]”. Employers should consider how the passport enhances the adjustments experience for employees. What gap do they fill in your procedures – and is the passport actually the best way to fill it? If you already have procedures that work, you might not need to use the passport. Using it when you don’t need it can feel ‘clunky’ and like ‘extra work’ for employees.

3. Various research projects of ours show that in organisations where the passport is voluntary, disabled employees’ experiences of adjustments are generally poor. This is usually about poor process development and lack of instructions about what to do when the passport is used and when it’s not. Employers should be clear what they want people to do and not do. Disabled employees often say a lack of clearly communicated processes and a lack of consistency in practice across different areas of the organisation causes a poor, untrustworthy perception of the employer. Being clear gives employees confidence that you know how to help when your help is needed.

4. We also often hear that the passport “Gets away from people having to have a difficult conversation”. If this is why you are using passports, you are trying to fix the wrong thing. Employers need to make sure conversations do happen and, yes, sometimes they may be difficult – but that’s not a bad thing. We often hear a manager has emailed the passport to an employee to complete it themselves and then send back. This is not what it’s for. The passport facilitates a conversation, it doesn’t replace it.

5. Our research tells us that even when the passport is used, employees’ adjustments are still rarely reviewed. A passport should facilitate a regular review of an employees’ adjustments, not just record them. Our research, The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey, shows that employees get their adjustments reviewed, on average, once a year. This isn’t enough. 30 per cent have them reviewed annually or less often than that, and 15 per cent of employees with adjustments have never had them reviewed. This is not supportive, definitely not inclusive practice, and it could potentially be legally risky: an employer’s duty to make adjustments for disabled employees is an ‘ongoing’ one, meaning employers have to both provide adjustments and regularly ensure that they are still effective in removing the barriers than an employee experiences. And, as we often tell our members, the law offers a bare minimum standard of inclusive practice – not a standard that will ensure disabled employees feel they really do belong and are valued in their workplaces.

We continue to work on passports practice with our Higher Education Network, and our Advice Service regularly advise on this topic. If you are a member of BDF and would like to speak to us about passports more, please contact our advice team at If you are a university and a member of BDF, find out how to join our Higher Education Network here.

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