Combating bullying and harassment of disabled workers in the Community Sector

Back to all Motions

2017 Community Service Group Conference
11 November 2016

Conference notes that workplaces in the Community sector are wide and varied ranging from national charities with thousands of workers to small organisations with a handful of staff. UNISON’s organisation within the Community sector is similarly varied with members being attached to national branches, dedicated community and voluntary sector branches, housing association branches. In some cases they are members of local government or health branches. Members working in isolation have told us that in some cases they have difficulty knowing who to turn to in times of crisis.

Conference notes that the Health and Safety Executive and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) report increasing stress related absences in the public sector including the community sector. This does not come as a surprise with workers experiencing increasing workloads, longer hours, cuts in terms and conditions, lone working and living in a climate of austerity.

Conference notes with great concern the high number of disabled workers experiencing bullying and harassment at work. Research by CIPD found that 37% of disabled workers experienced bullying and harassment, compared to 18% of non-disabled workers. Further, research from Cardiff University highlighted that the type of disability an individual has can significantly affect their likelihood of experiencing bullying at work. For example 21% of those with learning disabilities experienced violence at work compared to 10% of disabled workers overall and 5% of those without a disability.

UNISON’s Scottish Young Members Committee undertook a survey, as part of their anti-bullying project – “Gonnae No Dae That” – about bullying and harassment amongst young workers, which included responses from disabled people. One of the major findings was that 50% of respondents with a disability reported their health and wellbeing was adversely impacted due to bullying and harassment, compared to 39% of those without a disability. The health impacts for all groups were exceptionally wide ranging from members suffering from anxiety and depression to attempts at suicide.

Conference is concerned that disabled people experiencing bullying and harassment may not take action for a number of reasons which can include fear of losing their job; that the bullying and harassment will be compounded, particularly in small workplaces; lack of ineffective workplace policies to tackle such behaviour; and not having anyone to turn to.

Conference calls on the Community Service Group Executive to work with National Disabled Members Committee to:-

1. carry out an online survey of branches for distribution to members working in the community sector to identify whether in the last year members have

(i) experienced work related stress; and

(ii) the reasons for this including bullying and harassment, unrealistic case loads

The survey should also ask:

a)whether members identify as disabled to see where and how disabled workers are at higher risk of stress and ill health

b)whether members sought advice from their union branch and if not, the reasons why not.

2. produce a report of the findings from the survey and any recommendations

3. circulate information, to branches in the community sector on bullying and harassment within the workplace.