Disability awareness training

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2018 Health Care Service Group Conference
8 December 2017

Conference recognises that there is a lack of disability awareness training for managers and is concerned about the impact this is having on disabled members in health branches and employers. There continues to be a lack of understanding of the needs of disabled employees in the workplace leading many employers to fail to make reasonable adjustments and eliminate discrimination.

Under the Equality Act 2010 employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to meet the individual needs of their disabled employees. They must provide reasonable support and resources to meet these needs which can include support through Access to Work (ATW). Some managers fail to support ATW claims because they don’t understand how it works, believe it will cost them money or think it will be difficult to manage.

UNISON recognises that many disabled employees became disabled during their working lives, it is therefore vital that employers provide the correct reasonable adjustments and ATW for their employees so that they can remain in employment and work in a safe environment that meets that individual’s needs.

In the 2017 UNISON equality survey, 1778 health members responded to the survey, 91% answered the following question: Have you had any employer-organised training on equality issues? Of those who answered, one third said ‘yes, in the past year’, 23% said ‘Yes, between 1 – 3 years ago’ and over a third said ‘No’. The National Disabled Members Committee believe this is not good enough.Disability awareness training is important for all employees but is vital for managers who need to provide support to disabled employees. This is even more important as financial pressures are leading to heavier workloads and increased stress levels within NHS settings.

We have seen an increase in employees affected by mental health issues, including stress, depression and anxiety and account for almost 70 million days off sick a year, however many of us know very little about mental health and don’t spot the signs that a colleague or employees are struggling and this can delay help and recovery. Additionally managers are not being trained in how to deal with mental health issues so are failing to take action.

Sickness absence procedures should include providing additional support for disabled people to return to work. Managers should be considering what reasonable adjustments they need to make to help disabled people return to work. But no training is provided to help managers understand the steps they need to take.

Conference calls on the Health Service Group Executive to work with the National Disabled Members’ Committee to:

1)use the NHS Staff Council and partnership bodies in all four countries of the UK to promote the development of mandatory disability awareness training in NHS employers;

2)to support and raise awareness of the need for mental health awareness training amongst NHS staff and to encourage the growth of Mental Health Champions in the workplace;

3)work with branches and regions to promote the need for employers to provide mandatory disability awareness training to all staff and in particular to managers;

4)encourage members to participate in and promote disability awareness training both in the workplace and UNISON’s education programme and to share examples of good practice.