Bargaining for good Mental Health policies in Community workplaces

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2019 Community Conference and Seminar
9 November 2018

Conference notes that our workplaces are changing, with members in the community and voluntary sector facing increased workloads due to a combination of slashed local authority funding, project based voluntary sector commissioning that does not cover overheads, and increased commercialisation and a target driven culture in housing associations.

These pressures have made the importance of ensuring good mental health in Community 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 branches that organise in the community sector can take to raise the issue of mental health with the employer.

The guide outlines the legal protections for members, such as the right to reasonable adjustments for disabled workers, 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.

Conference notes that some employers are training staff to be mental health first aiders. This can be a positive step if it is part of a broader set of measures including changes to sickness absence and capability procedures, action on unrealistic workloads and the causes of workplace stress, management training on mental health and a commitment to providing reasonable adjustments.

Conference welcomes the work already undertaken by the Service Group Executive to implement the motion on mental health from Cymru/Wales to 2018 Community conference but there remains work to be done.

Conference therefore calls on the Service Group Executive to:

1) Publicise UNISON’s “Bargaining on Mental Health Policies” guidance to UNISON branches which organise in the community sector, 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 UNISON branches that organise in the community sector

3) Use this work as a recruitment tool to engage new members working in the community sector, including disabled members, to UNISON.