False Allegations

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Conference
2005 Health Care Service Group Conference
Date
16 December 2004
Decision
Carried as Amended

Many of us have fought for years for equality in all areas. We have had some successes, including some excellent employment laws. However, these laws can sometimes be used against us and when they are there is very little in the way of information and support.

Many of our members work alone with another female/male colleague or client – take for example staff working in community settings such as community nurses and support staff and staff working with vulnerable groups such as in mental health or Learning Disabilities settings. What if a lesbian/gay man is falsely accused of sexual harassment by this colleague or a client? There is a mass of support and information as to what to do if you are the person who brings the allegation and quite rightly so. However if you are the unfortunate victim of false allegations there is very little apart from website litigation “experts” who want your money. In some cases allegations of harassment are malicious and vexatious and constitute a form of harassment, but with little redress.

Without question we must support anyone going through genuine harassment and without doubt UNISON and other trade unions must continue to provide information and support. Whilst this is an issue affecting all our members there are particular concerns about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff being vulnerable to false allegations when working in isolation. Often we notice that using the harassment policy often represents an easy way to harass someone through false accusations that are malicious in nature and can have devastating effects on our members’ health and career prospects. Health branches and national negotiators must therefore be vigilant in how we negotiate equality and harassment policies as well as raising relevant professional issues.

Whilst welcoming the strides we have made in saying harassment in any form is not acceptable we need to be aware of the dangers that we may be more vulnerable to false allegations being made against us.

A starting point should be to gather evidence of just how many members have suffered at the hands of false accusers, as well as the outcomes of such cases including monitoring of cases by sexual orientation, race, and gender. We need to ensure that the right to representation of members who are accused of harassment is also met according to UNISON’s policies and procedures.

This Conference calls on the Health Service Group Executive, Regional Health Committees and health branches to work to:

1.Raise awareness of these issues, working with Self-Organised Groups;

2.Ensure issues are raised with employers when negotiating harassment policies;

3.Issue guidance to representatives and negotiators to ensure that members facing false allegations are given adequate support;

4.Work with the Nursing Sector to ensure the issue is raised with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) with particular attention paid to staff involved in lone working who may be at particular risk of false allegations.

This Conference calls for the Health Service Group Executive to report on progress to the 2006 Health Group Conference.