UNISON welcomes the opportunity to respond to the comments made in the Coventry Evening Telegraph by Councillor Mutton, Cabinet Member for Resources, about sickness absence at Coventry City Council.
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.