Coventry City UNISON note that sickness absence due to stress has risen 10% in the last year. At a time of austerity with many council jobs having been lost and demand for services ever increasing this is no surprise to us. Coventry City UNISON are working with our members to try to address the issue of stress in the workplace and the causes of it. The union will be coming forward with proposals for the council to consider a proper mental health strategy; this is an issue that UNISON has been raising for some considerable time even getting the employer to do some training with MIND but unfortunately for many of our members they have not seen any benefit of this.
Sarah Feeney, Branch Secretary said in response to Cllr Mutton’s comments, “We were very surprised to see Cllr Mutton’s comments regarding his belief that an unnamed union has been encouraging its members to go off sick. The reality is that many of our members who are off sick with stress have needed time away from the workplace to get better. Our considerable experience tells us that it is a matter for the medical profession to determine whether an employee is fit for work and not a trade union. What is more have also consistently raised issues of Equality and Diversity that affect the culture of the work place which in turn impacts on absence. These concerns are well known to the employer.
In a number of cases management inaction for a period of months has led to both the absence and the prolonged nature of it and we would be more than happy to discuss these matters with Cllr Mutton. In respect of his comment about carers taking time off sick for childcare we do not recognise that from our work with our members; in reality a large amount of the sickness total is due to long periods of absence largely due to stress issues. The City Council needs to take seriously the issue of its duty of care to employees that is enshrined in law”
We too are very concerned at the upward trend in sickness absence in the organisation. Just a few weeks ago UNISON highlighted the issue of mental health in the workplace and held open meetings on Mental Health in the Workplace, which were well received. The aim of these meetings is to record the issues that affect our members’ mental health and well-being and to begin to address them with our employer.
We have raised questions about this matter with the employer over a number of years, not least as they apply to the Equality Act and the Health and Safety at Work Act. The employer has a duty of care to ensure employees are kept safe at work in all aspects, including health and well-being.
They also have a duty to ensure that those employees are properly supported in order that they can carry out their roles. We have also raised issues about bullying, harassment and cultural issues of discrimination many times with the City Council.
We know that the vast majority of absence is genuine. We also know that austerity and cuts to Council budgets have had a devastating impact on the workplace as employees are asked to take on more work with less staff which simply cannot continue.
Public Service should be respected and embraced. Our members often go above and beyond the call of duty. That needs to be recognised. For too long our members have been undermined by austerity. To excel, we need to become an employer of choice. Therefore it is important that our members are valued employees regardless of whom they are. The Council could embrace Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. We are at our best when everyone feels valued.
Meetings identify significant issues around Mental Health & Wellbeing in Coventry City Council
UNISON has held two meetings with staff in recent weeks to discuss the impact of mental health on the workplace, how issues have been with by the employer and what other steps might have been taken to address them.
We wish to thank all those who attended the meetings. Staff gave the union a big insight into the depth of the issues and concerns that people have. For some this may not have been easy. We really appreciate the input we have received.
UNISON will now be considering the information we have received, identifying any common themes, and making arrangements to establish a working group with members. The working group’s task will be to come up with specific actions for the employer which could improve Mental Health & Wellbeing in the workplace.
On Workers’ Memorial Day, Friday 28 April Thompsons Solicitors launched a campaign to highlight the importance of health and safety in the workplace through a photography competition. The competition will be open to all with entrants being asked to submit a photograph which shows the human side of why health and safety is important. We want to encourage members to submit photos that illustrate why the legislation to uphold health and safety should not be considered a burden or “red tape”, but an essential protection for all.
The competition will run from 28 April until 28 June. Winning entries will be exhibited at the People’s History Museum later this year and will share in a £5,000 prize pot.
All the information, including instructions on how to take part, will be on a campaign hub, which went live at www.thompsons.law/focus on Workers’ Memorial Day.
We considered delaying the launch of the competition in the light of the election but given health and safety laws are under very real threat as we exit the EU we believe we should be unapologetically highlighting their importance. It might be used as an opportunity to remind members as they go to vote what is at stake.
This message was sent on behalf of Reuben Greenwood, Branch Manager, Midlands offices