We are the Environment Agency protecting and improving the environment. Acting to reduce the impacts of the changing climate and wildlife is the heart of everything we do.
We reduce the risks to people, properties and businesses from flooding and coastal erosion. We protect and improve the quality of water making sure there is enough for people business agriculture and the environment. Our work helps to ensure that people can enjoy the water environment through angling and navigation. We look after land quality promote sustainable land management and help and protect and enhance wildlife habitats. And we work closely with businesses to help them comply with environmental regulations We work as part of the Defra group (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) with the rest of government local councils businesses civil society groups and local communities to make our environment a better place for people and wildlife. We have around 10,000 employees and on of the key organisational behavior aspirations is “Embrace Difference, Include Everyone.”
The challenges faced
Our organisation has an ambition to be the top employer in the country for equality, diversity and inclusion. One of the key areas to address this inclusivity was the support given to our employees when a workplace adjustment might be required to help them undertake their work.
Although we were aware that managers were making adjustments for our employees there was no consistency in this, and we recognised that despite the internal intranet held a wealth of information about what workplace adjustments were, the process for obtaining them had never clearly been defined. We also heard some frustrating stories of where workplace adjustments hadn’t been put in place or had taken too long to arrange.
In order to deal with this, a small working group was formed and a review was undertaken, this involved identifying and reviewing all the current adjustments available and reviewing current practices. Extensive external research was made including taking advice from the Business Disability Forum (BDF). We also consulted with our employee disability networks gaining their feedback.
These actions were all fully supported by Toby Willison, the Environment Agency Executive Manager disability champion.
A key requirement was to look to establish a centralized budget for the funding of any adjustments. This was agreed and now all adjustments costing £500 or more are funded from this budget, therefore removing the pressure from individual team budgets and ensuring that each employee is treated fairly.
A ‘Getting support in the workplace’ guide was produced, this covered all aspects of inclusivity, and to support any employee experiencing a barrier at work. Although the key purpose was to support employees with disabilities or a long term medical condition, it included reference to making adjustments for employees with caring responsibilities as this is good practice. This was linked into a workplace adjustment ‘gateway’ that all managers could easily access.
This new ‘gateway’ also linked to a ‘Common workplace adjustment guide’ which was produced to collate reference to useful documents relating to individual disabilities and medical conditions. This will enable the manager to have easy access to educate themselves on the relevant condition and actions and support they could give direct to their employee.
The gateway was then launched to the business through various communication routes including internal publications and management ‘pipelines’ A series of 3 Disability Confident live meeting events were also held.
As part of the launch we also highlighted the Environment Agency “Employee Passport” a useful document that can be used to record adjustments made. We have found these very beneficial to ensure that adjustments made continue for employees on job changes, without the need for further approval. This enables the manager to support the employees from the first day in their new role. This document encompasses the ‘whole’ employee work life circumstances, including health, wellbeing, and caring responsibilities.
At the same time we also introduced a Disability Leave policy that is a workplace adjustment to help employees manage their disability at work. This would be for additional time off to support the employee with the assessment, treatment or rehabilitation for their medical condition or disability.
Further information was introduced to support managers to be more inclusive, this includes a Disability awareness tool kit and the provision of new e-learning modules.
The new policies seem to be working well and six months on from the introduction of these initiatives we are now going to undertake a review of how the policy and processes are working.
The introduction of the centralized budget is working well, there is a good link with the IT department to ensure that all requests for Assisted Technology are dealt with quickly. The majority of these adjustments, such as Dragon software, are funded through this budget and this has meant that delays, previously related to funding, have been overcome.
The review will be supported by the BDF and will identify areas that have been successful and working well and where there may be further opportunities to support our employees, to ensure that everyone feels that they can bring their whole self to work and work is a life enhancing place to be.