The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has launched a new system of disability passports designed to record the reasonable adjustments agreed between an employer and a disabled employee, so that those adjustments remain in place if the employee’s line manager changes.

The general ideas behind the disability passports scheme are that:

  1. The trade union representative will negotiate a contract/policy between the employer and the union for the use of the disability passports in the workplace; and
  2. The disabled employee is then given a personal written disability passport, which records how their disability affects them at work and what reasonable adjustments have been agreed.

Why should employers issue disabled staff with a personalised disability passport?

Disabled staff commonly complain about the difficulties they encounter when negotiating reasonable adjustments at work to alleviate disadvantages they face due to their disability. In particular, issues can arise when there is a change of line manager, role or department/team, because the new manager may not recognise the agreed adjustments and may take a different view as to their reasonableness. This can cause disabled staff to feel like they constantly have to move from one ‘battle’ to the next, with their agreed adjustments being constantly threatened.

The purpose of the TUC’s disability passport is to:

  • ensure that everyone is clear about what adjustments have been agreed and has a written record of these
  • reduce the need to reassess and renegotiate adjustments every time a worker changes jobs, is relocated or is assigned a new manager; and
  • provide a worker and manager with the basis for future conversations about adjustments

Both the employee, their manager and usually HR will have a copy of the written disability passport.

HR should actively seek the employee’s consent to share the disability passport with any new line manager and - if the employee is changing team or role - with their new team leader/department head.

When must an employer make reasonable adjustments?

Where an employee is disabled, the employer is under a duty to make reasonable adjustments or modifications to remove any substantial disadvantage faced by that employee in the workplace compared with a non-disabled employee. This duty to make reasonable adjustments for disability applies if a disabled person is placed at a substantial disadvantage, in comparison with a non-disabled person:

  • by a provision, criterion or practice applied by or on behalf of an employer
  • by any physical feature of premises occupied by the employer; or
  • if the provision of an auxiliary aid will prevent the disadvantage

Will the idea of disability passports ‘catch on’?

As this scheme has the backing of the TUC, which represents 5.5 million working people who are members of 48 member unions, it seems likely that employers with unionised workforces will very quickly see requests to introduce disability passports in their workplace. Over time, the idea of disability passports may have a ‘trickle-down’ effect and begin to filter into non-unionised workplaces. Indeed, some employers may want to proactively adopt the disability passport’s scheme in their own workplace.