UNISON HE Members & Reps Require Improved Mental Health Support

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2017 Higher Education Service Group Conference
9 November 2016

Conference notes that UNISON Higher Education Members are under unprecedented amounts of stress. It is further acknowledged that contributing factors include restructuring, redundancy, inadequate pay and the rising national cost of living.

Mental health illnesses take many forms and often make it difficult for both the employer and affected employees to recognise the symptoms, thus making effective counselling, support and welfare during sickness absence, and in the workplace, difficult.

In its Work related Stress, Anxiety and Depression Statistics in Great Britain 2016 report, the Health & Safety Executive says that “work related stress is defined as a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work”. It goes on to state that public services (including Education) are most affected and that mental illnesses (including stress) accounted for 37% of all work related ill health cases and 45% of all working days lost to ill health in 2015/2016.

It is also recognised that there is still a culture of bullying and harassment in some institutions which adds to the existing pressure on staff at all levels.

Conference also acknowledges that branch elected officers, stewards and reps often feel ill-equipped to help members to deal with mental health issues. They may also experience increased stress and other mental health problems themselves as a result of supporting members whilst dealing with their own everyday lives.

Conference therefore calls on the Higher Education Service Group Executive to:

1)Develop resources for branches to help support members with mental health issues;

2)Create opportunities at national and regional level to train branch elected officers and reps on how to develop skills to help mental health issues;

3)To raise awareness with members and branches of the employer’s duty of care to help employees with mental health issues; whether or not it is work related;

4) Encourage and support branches to ensure that the employer has sound policies regarding stress and mental health issues;

5)Educate branches and employers on the Equality Act 2010 and mental health issues including the right of employees under the act including disability discrimination and reasonable adjustments.