Backwards step for Equality…

Over the past few years we’ve campaigned for changes to better support staff with disabilities in our trust. This was needed based on some very disturbing casework, associated legal referrals and inconsistencies across the trust.

Some of the casework involved the trust querying if having time off for chemotherapy was ‘reasonable’ and giving sanctions to staff for sickness related to serious illnesses. Some cases showed a distinct lack of compassion when dealing with staff at their most vulnerable.  It was very difficult times; an experienced solicitor described the trusts handling of some cases as ‘medieval.’

The HR review, commissioned by the Trust Chair in 2014, which did not include any discussion or consultation with UNISON, commented on disability management and how some members of the HR department were concerned the trust could lose the two ticks status.

“It was noted by some interviewees that there was potentially a risk the Trust would lose its two ticks status. (Two ticks indicates the organisation has been given approval by the Job Centre as an organisation who meets 5 specific criteria in relation to disabled people).

It was noted that Unison (Unison’s June 2014 Newsletter) had expressed concern over ‘overzealous managers’ who put more pressure on staff. They call for a balance and the need to deliver performance through appropriate and measured performance management needing effective HR input aligned with trust values. They ask for a culture which is created through actions and words more than what is written.”

You can read the full HR review here – which was eventually provided (with redaction) under a freedom of information request, after being refused as a staff request: HR Review

Over the past 12 months we had started to move towards a better place with disability; being the first ambulance trust with a disability policy, launched at the beginning of 2015, was something to be rightly proud of.

Disability, as defined by the Equality Act 2010, includes staff diagnosed with cancer or progressive conditions, as well as staff who might be injured and unable to continue in their substantive role.

We believe giving staff the opportunity of redeployment and pay protection for a period of time is central to the trusts commitment under the two ticks scheme to do everything possible to encourage and support staff developing a disability to remain in employment – this had been happening in the trust until very recently.

A few weeks ago we discovered through casework that pay protection for staff in need of redeployment on disability grounds has been withdrawn – without any consultation with UNISON.

The trust had also been offering NHS at risk accounts to staff at risk on capability grounds and this has also stopped with immediate effect.

It is very disappointing we were not informed of these significant changes as part of our joint working meetings.

We have since discussed these changes with senior HR and they are reviewing case work, as they feel there have been inconsistencies in the way pay protection has been applied. We feel strongly that the trust should not be lowering its support to the small amount of staff in need of redeployment due to disabilities and this is a very large backwards step in support and equality within our Trust.

We are advising any UNISON members effected by these changes to contact their county lead urgently, so we can offer support and monitor these cases; we will campaign on this issue if needed.

It’s hoped the trust will rethink this very large backwards step for staff with disabilities.

Fraer Stevenson

UNISON Branch Secretary

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One Response to Backwards step for Equality…

  1. Pingback: UNISON’s ‘disability pay protection’ grievance upheld. | Put back the Heart

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