Equality Facility Time for Disabled Members

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2014 National Disabled Members' Conference
30 June 2014
Carried as Amended

At the Discrimination Law Conference in January 2014 Professor Sir Bob Hepple QC said that “if a new government enacts only one new piece of equality legislation it should be to require equality representatives at workplaces” – such reps would require a legal right to time off to “be involved in drawing up and enforcing employment and pay equity plans”.

Currently equality reps, including disability SOG reps, have no legal right to time off to undertake their trade union equality duties. The TUC argued in 2005 that trade union equality reps should be given the same statutory rights as learning reps – paid time off for training and for undertaking their role. Training included developing the necessary knowledge, skills and confidence to undertake the role effectively and capacity building for effective engagement with employers.

TUC research published in 2010 concluded that a key factor in equality reps effectiveness was the amount of time they were able to spend on their duties and without a statutory right that time was limited. The research reported that equality reps greatly enhance employers’ equality work and have a positive impact in the workplace. There was evidence of employers support with one saying “It is in our interests to develop competent equality reps.”

There was also evidence that specific equality time was influential in attracting members into activity – this is especially beneficial for disabled members who may be more reluctant become active due to lack of time and access barriers.

The activities that disabled equality and SOG reps undertake include –

i)Providing advice and information on disability equality matters such as reasonable adjustments;

ii)Workplace mapping and tackling disability discriminatory patterns;

iii)Supporting and advising members on sickness absence issues;

iv)Encouraging discussion of disability equality issues on the collective bargaining agenda.

This matter is especially significant for UNISON given that disability equality was part of its founding principles. Many disability equality issues require proper time to consider and cannot be progressed on snatches of time from other matters. The lack of specific equality time for disability equality is especially detrimental and seriously impairs disabled activist’s abilities to challenge disability discrimination in the workplace. The implicit – if not explicit – perception is that disability equality is not as important as other TU issues.

Now more than ever with the pernicious victimisation and scapegoating of disabled people by coalition government policies disability equality needs to be centre stage. The inequitable effects of the austerity policies on disabled workers including the effect of increased stress and mental ill health need tackling by reps who have dedicated time to do so.

Conference requests the National Disabled Members Committee to –

1)Discuss facility time for equality reps with the TUC with a view to raising it with the next government;

2)Work with Labour Link to influence the next labour Government to extend facility time to equality reps.