Bargaining for good Mental Health policies in WET workplaces

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2018 Water, Environment & Transport Conference
22 February 2018
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that our workplaces are changing, with members in Water, Environment and Transport (WET) facing increased workloads as targets are increased year on year and working conditions often deteriorate under TUPE transfers.

These pressures have made the importance of ensuring good mental health in WET 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 WET 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 The Highways Agency is used as a case study to demonstrate how taking mental health seriously can have benefits for both members and the employer, with an 18% decrease in mental health related sickness after the establishment of a joint management/union working group, training for managers, a stress toolkit and reasonable adjustments in place.

Conference also congratulates the Environment Agency North West branch on the work they have undertaken to train up health and safety reps specialising in mental health.

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

1. Publicise UNISON’s “Bargaining on Mental Health Policies” guidance to WET 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 WET branches

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

4) Note the work undertaken by young members on this issue and seek to work with the National Young Members Forum on developing relevant resources for young workers in this service group.