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My mission to introduce workplace adjustment passports across the NDA

16 September 2021

Kathryn Sosville, an independent assessor at Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd and a member of Prospect’s National Executive Committee, writes about her mission to get workplace adjustment passports introduced across all companies within the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority Group.

Workplace diversity

Union experience

I joined Prospect when I came to Dounreay in 2008 after witnessing the benefits of being in a union while at UKAEA at Harwell. I have gradually expanded my contribution to members as I’ve gained experience from auditing the branch accounts to my current position as the branch secretary and now as a member of the NEC.

I feel very privileged and honoured to be working in conjunction with an amazing set of professionals, working to benefit all members. The experience I’ve gained has inspired and encouraged me to take steps beyond my comfort zone, developing as an individual and professionally.

Kathryn Sosville

Kathryn Sosville

Workplace adjustment passports

I believe all individuals should be enabled, by their employers, to contribute to their fullest extent. When the NDA Group established its Disability Network, I knew I wanted to become involved and as I have a mobility impairment, I knew I could help improve conditions for myself and others.

I think, in a lot of ways, the pandemic has opened people’s eyes on what’s possible because there has been a bigger focus on helping people adjust to working at home, and now in our offices too.

I joined the steering committee of the NDA’s Group Disability Network because I’d been quite passionate about the Workplace Adjustment Passport, and I ended up leading on it and trying to implement its rollout across all the NDA companies.

In a recent article for one of the NDA’s internal newsletters, I explained the concept of the ‘passports.’

‘Passports’ are intended to be used by all employees not just those with recognised disabilities, long term illnesses or caring responsibilities; they can be used to record any informal agreements that are made between employees and their managers.

For example, an employee has developed lower back pain and a sore wrist. The ‘passport’ could be used to implement an agreement to provide non-standard equipment, i.e., a rising desk and an orbital mouse, to the employee to alleviate musculoskeletal and joint related pain.

‘Passports’ are intended to facilitate a discussion with their manager and can be utilised to record any agreed reasonable adjustments, changes to Work Schedules, Role and Responsibilities, Working Environments, provision of Specialist Technology and other Support and Assistance as may be required.  If you move roles within the NDA Group, then you take your passport with you, and it can help to have the conversation about adjustments in the workplace with your new manager.

Roll-out

I’ve been coordinating with the different group companies about where they are with their workplace adjustment passports, and it was great to see that Sellafield had already implemented one.

Some of the Sellafield graduates were seeing the benefits because they move from place to place and it helps them to get over those difficult, awkward conversations.

Hopefully by the end of the year all NDA group companies will have a published workplace adjustment passport.

I’ve spoken to each of the HR leads at all the group companies and they all agree it’s a great idea. In a sense it’s something that we already do for people with disabilities because of the Equality Act. But we shouldn’t make it so narrow. It should be for everyone.

Although making ‘reasonable adjustments’ is required under the Equality Act the Workplace Adjustment Passport can be used by all; it can be used to record those informal conversations that you have with your manager. It’s better to have those written down, than to have a conflict on the nature of the agreement in future.

The most important thing about the passport is that it’s owned by the employee; it’s for them to share when, and with whom, they want.  Remember the employer and manager can only make reasonable adjustments if they are made aware of your requirements.

Diversity data

Another important piece of work in a similar vein to the workplace adjustment passports is the NDA’s Beacon Project for diversity data, which I am sitting on as a Prospect rep.  Our employee Diversity & Inclusion data is poor, and we have high levels of non-disclosure on several diversity strands including disability.

In November, we will be going out with a data improvement campaign and asking all employees to update their D&I data on the HR system (details will follow in each business) but people won’t have to declare anything that they don’t want to, as there will be prefer not to say option. Your information is confidential and will only be used for statistical analysis and reporting, and your manager will not have access to it.

I am encouraging individuals to be open because companies can’t help you if they don’t know what’s needed.

For example, if just one person requests a particular adaptation or aid, that could be a difficult ask for an individual’s department budget if quite expensive. But if the NDA Group discovered that 500 individuals needed that, that could potentially change the equation on what is possible and reasonable.

Prospect NEC

Being elected to serve on the NEC has provided me with an opportunity for personal and professional growth and development. I’ve been taken out of my comfort zone and expanding what I can do to help people. It has been amazing and very rewarding. You can see how different people think, and it has been quite challenging, especially with the pandemic as getting to know people has been a more difficult.

I very much feel that unions are unsung heroes. We get things done but nobody really notices it. We need to stand up and say: ‘This is what we do as part of representing you and we’re always here to look out for you.’


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