Bargaining for good Mental Health policies in Energy workplaces

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2018 Energy Service Group Conference
22 February 2018

Conference notes that our workplaces are changing, with members in Energy facing increased workloads as targets are increased year on year and working conditions often deteriorating when new management takes over.

These pressures have made the importance of ensuring good mental health in Energy workplaces clear.

At least one in four of us will experience mental health problems at some time in our lives and at any one time one in six workers is experiencing a mental health problem. Although mental health problems aren’t always caused by work, unrealistic targets, poor management, bullying and discrimination can exacerbate them.

The cost to UK employers in mental health related sickness absence, lost productivity and staff turnover is estimated at £26 billion. However the cost to our members is incalculable.

Conference notes UNISON’s recent branch guidance “Bargaining on Mental Health Policies” which includes a range of steps Energy branches can take to raise the issue of mental health with their employer.

The guide outlines the legal protections for members, such as the right to reasonable adjustments for disabled people, including those experiencing mental health problems. It recommends working with employers to comprehensively review the organisation’s policies to promote mental wellbeing and support staff with mental health problems.

The example of EDF Energy is used as a case study to demonstrate how taking mental health seriously can have benefits for both members and the employer, with increased productivity and a rise in job satisfaction. The “Time to Change” programme at National Grid is also highlighted, with Energy workplaces clearly leading the way on this work.

However, there is still more to do to and Conference therefore calls on the Service Group Executive to:

1. Publicise UNISON’s “Bargaining on Mental Health Policies” guidance to Energy branches, including encouraging branches to lobby employers to make a public commitment to mental health wellbeing in the workplace

2. Seek and disseminate examples of best practice in Energy branches

3. Use this work as a recruitment tool to engage new members, including disabled members, in UNISON.