Workplace Mental Health Issues in Police and Justice Services

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2015 Police & Justice Service Group Conference
18 June 2015

Official statistics produced by mental health charities advise us that one in four people will experience mental ill health at some point in their lives. Despite the success of many charities raising public awareness and drawing employers and ACAS’ attention to the mental wellbeing of staff there is still considerable stigma associated with mental health impairments, leaving some police and justice staff fearful of disclosing mental health issues in the workplace.

Disabled workers still face high levels of bullying and harassment and other forms of discrimination in the workplace. Low career expectations of disabled workers and social isolation within the workplace can cause anxiety and an increase in mental distress. The current context of cuts in police and justice services, so called austerity measures and excessive workloads are likely to increase the number of people experiencing mental health crises. All too often management remedies fail to take account of pre-existing impairments; it is vitally important that the provision of support for disabled people experiencing mental ill health takes account of their own specific access needs. Too often disabled members may feel their only option for survival is to leave work. However pension schemes may offer little financial security for members while they are out of work, and at the same time facing economic and social barriers as a result of discrimination.

Conference also notes that isolation at work can place particular communities at an even further disadvantage; Black, LGBT and disabled women and Deaf people (whose first or preferred language is signed) are at increased risk of mental ill-health. However, being Black, LGBT a disabled woman or a Deaf worker with mental ill-health is particularly detrimental as many services do not recognise the complexities of multiple identities, or indeed offer appropriate access to their services. Misconceptions about sexual orientation, race or ethnicity, gender identity and/or surdophobia do little to encourage disabled Black, disabled LGBT, disabled women and Deaf people to seek assistance or access the services they need. Some services that used to exist to meet the mental health needs of disabled Black and disabled LGBT people have lost funding due to the austerity measures of the past government.

Conference calls upon the Police and Justice Service Group to work with the National Disabled Members’ Committee to lobby police and justice employers to:

1)Meet their legal duties according to the Equality Act and provide reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of staff with mental health issues;

2)Review their wellbeing policies to ensure they offer services that are appropriate and accessible to disabled Black, LGBT, women and Deaf (first/preferred sign language) workers;

3)Raise awareness of mental ill-health as a workplace and occupational pension issue and ensure campaigns address the specific concerns of all disabled workers;

4)Identify and circulate good practice by branches and regions in supporting and representing disabled members experiencing mental ill health;

5)Encourage the provision of employer training in mental health issues, particularly for those involved in human resource management and the management health and safety infrastructure;

6)Encourage regions and branches to recognise that mental ill health is a workplace issue and that negotiations on local workforce sickness management policies should recognise and make provision for mental ill health;

7)Highlight to branches and regions what constitutes a disability with regards to mental ill health under the Equality Act 2010 and support members in seeking reasonable adjustments, including early retirement.