First Bus’ story

One of Britain’s largest bus operators, First Bus, used our consultancy service to help them retain a skilled, and valued employee - Gerry - also saving the business £5,000.

Gerry has a physical impairment which was beginning to have an impact on an aspect of his work. As a skilled and valued driver, his employers at First West of England were keen to retain him and they approached us for advice.

Following a bout of polio in his youth, Gerry was left with a physical impairment. His condition had gradually worsened over time and eventually he was unable to operate the wheelchair ramp on the bus for passengers when they needed it.

Operating the wheelchair ramp is a core part of a bus drivers’ job. As Gerry was no longer able to do this, he was taken off active driving duties and medically suspended for a number of months. He then returned to work on light duties but the company resolved to find a permanent solution. As a skilled and valued driver, First were keen to retain him and they approached ADWUK (now part of WECIL) for advice.

Gavin Hawkins, Staff Manager for First at the company’s Hengrove depot, explains:

“We had become aware of the problem for Gerry but were determined to do what we could to keep him in the business. The advice we received from ADWUK (now WECIL) helped enormously. They came to see us to understand the problem and then involved another organisation – Remap – to make a bespoke solution.

Gerry now has a small foldable stool with special wet weather grips, which he can sit on when he’s opening the ramps. Remap also worked on another bespoke hand-held device for him to allow him to open the spring loaded ramps without needing to bend over at all. This gives him the option of using either the stool or the hand-held device, using whichever is most appropriate for the situation he’s in. These simple devices mean that Gerry is now able to deploy the ramps safely, without falling over and they mean he’s been able to return to active duties as a bus driver.”

“The advisors helped us with retaining a valued, longstanding member of our team; the expert advice and support saved our business £5,000.”

Georgina Bickerton – HR Business Partner First West of England

Talking about his experience, Gerry Foster says:

“I was approached by my manager Gavin, after he noticed that it had become difficult for me to deploy the wheelchair ramps. While I was medically suspended I was told that the company were committed to doing what they could to help me overcome the problems I was experiencing. I was kept up to date with the progress made and was also able to play an active part in the decision making too. With the help of the company, ADWUK (now WECIL), Remap and my Union representative, a solution was found. I was thrilled by this: it has allowed me to return to driving duties, which is great as it’s a job I very much enjoy!”

Our work with First Bus is just one example of the positive outcomes that can be achieved when looking for solutions creatively. The majority of people acquire their impairments during their working lives; our focus is to ensure that both they and their employers receive the advice and support they need to continue in employment.              

As an organisation run by and for disabled people, we are experts in our field. Our specialist team of skilled advisors offer a bespoke consultancy service, so that employers can not only meet their obligations in employing disabled staff, but can go further – to increase performance, improve workplace cohesion and create a more inclusive environment for both staff and customers.

For more information about the advice we offer to employers and businesses, please see our Consultancy and training page.

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