Women Health & Safety Reps / Officers in the NHS

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2024 National Women's Conference
13 October 2023

UNISON has approximately 5,000 Health and Safety representatives across the union working hard to defend members’ health and safety at work.

Over the past few years health and safety has emerged again as critical for protecting members’ rights at work. However, the gender balance of Health and Safety representatives in UNISON does not reflect the gender balance of our union.

Women’s health and safety is never more important – whether it is advising on maternity rights, menopause, endometriosis, breast cancer, undergoing cancer treatment, pelvic organ prolapse and any other relevant medical conditions including stress, burnout, carers responsibilities, women’s safety equipment, exposure to hazardous substances in their work and at home, for example when cleaning, or in areas where there is a traditional bias towards female working – we need women representing women!

Building women’s confidence is an underlined key factor in convincing members to take on the rep role.

Working women are more likely to be exposed to hazards like issues around lifting or exposure to chemicals at work and at home because they have traditionally had greater domestic and caring responsibilities.

Women are:

• more likely to be in low-paid, unsafe work and this may affect their working conditions and the hazards they are exposed to.

• more likely to stay in the same job longer than men so may have a longer exposure to the hazards that are present.

• more likely to work in jobs where trade union representation is weaker and there may be less worker consultation and participation which is an important factor in successful risk prevention.

We ask the National Women’s Committee to:

? Work with the National Health and Safety Forum to emphasise the key issues for women in the workplace.

? Work with the National Health and Safety Forum, and any other relevant body, to encourage women to become health and safety representatives

? Maintain and improve our recruitment levels but also to target our ‘hard to reach’ and lower paid women members. Only by a targeted approach can we ensure that we offer the protection and opportunities of UNISON and encourage more women to join us and take on active roles within our union.

? Promote and continue to engage with “Be OnTheSafeSide”