Sunday, 24 December 2017

No one should suffer in silence

Christmas, for many different reasons, can be a rather lonely time for some.

Below are a few numbers worth sharing:

Childline: 0800 1111
Samaritans: 116 123
Domestic Violence Hotline: 0808 2000 247
Mind: 0300 123 3393
Age UK: 0800 055 6112

No one should suffer in silence.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Oxford City Branch of UNISON: Adult Safeguarding at Christmas

Oxford City Branch of UNISON: Adult Safeguarding at Christmas: Age UK Oxfordshire predicts that up to 11,000 older people in the county are facing spending Christmas alone this year. The debilitating ep...

Adult Safeguarding at Christmas

Age UK Oxfordshire predicts that up to 11,000 older people in the county are facing spending Christmas alone this year. The debilitating epidemic of loneliness has a devastating impact on older people in Oxfordshire, the charity has warned.
Read the full article in the Oxford Mail here.
If you’re worried about an older person this Christmas, you can contact the Oxfordshire Adult Social Care Team. An assessment can be requested by an individual, a friend, a neighbour or another agency. They may be entitled to care and support services that could help them:
  • develop and maintain family or other personal relationships
  • access and engage in work, training, education or volunteering
  • make use of necessary facilities or services in the local community, including public transport, and recreational facilities or services.
Details of adult social care in Oxfordshire can be found at
If your concerns are about self-neglect, abuse or neglect by a person or agency with care responsibilities, you should use the online Reporting a concern system via the OSAB.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Dealing with stress in the workplace

According to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), in 2015/16 over 480,000 people in the UK reported that work-related stress was making them ill. This amounts to nearly 40% of all work-related illness.
Yet many employees are reluctant to talk about stress at work. There is still a stigma attached to stress and people still think they will be seen as weak if they admit they are struggling. But stress is not a weakness, and can affect anyone at any level of an organisation.
It is therefore important that an employer takes steps to tackle the work-related causes of stress in its organisation and encourages staff to seek help at the earliest opportunity if they begin to experience stress.


What is stress?

Stress is defined as the 'adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them'. Most staff benefit from a certain amount of pressure in their work. It can keep them motivated and give a sense of ambition. However, when there is too much pressure placed on them, they can become overloaded. Stress can affect the health of staff, reduce their productivity and lead to performance issues.
Stress is not an illness, but the psychological impact can lead to conditions such as anxiety and depression. Stress, anxiety and depression can also increase the risk of conditions like heart disease, back pain, gastrointestinal illnesses or skin conditions.

What causes stress?

There can be a variety of causes of stress. For example, financial problems, difficulties in personal relationships or moving house can all cause stress. Work can also cause stress. The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) has identified the six primary causes of work-related stress to be:
  • The demands of the job - staff can become overloaded if they cannot cope with the amount of work or type of work they are asked to do
  • Amount of control over work - staff can feel disaffected and perform poorly if they have no say over how and when they do their work
  • Support from managers and colleagues - levels of sickness absence often rise if staff feel they cannot talk to managers about issues troubling them
  • Relationships at work - a failure to build relationships based on good behaviour and trust can lead to problems related to discipline, grievances and bullying
  • How a role fits within the organisation - staff will feel anxious about their work and the organisation if they don't know what is expected of them and/or understand how their work fits into the objectives of the organisation
  • Change and how it is managed - change needs to be managed effectively or it can lead to huge uncertainty and insecurity.

Why should employers try to reduce the causes of stress at work?

Firstly, reducing work-related stress can be hugely beneficial to an employer:
  • Making staff healthier and happier at work
  • Improving performance and making staff more productive
  • Reducing absence levels
  • Reducing workplace disputes
  • Making the organisation more attractive to job seekers
Secondly, an employer has a legal obligation to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees. As part of this, an employer must conduct risk assessments for work-related stress and take actions to prevent staff from experiencing a stress-related illness because of their work.
For more information on how to conduct a risk assessment, go to

Taking steps to reduce work-related stress

If a risk assessment identifies areas where the organisation is performing poorly, an employer should work with its staff to agree realistic and practical ways to tackle it.
Any existing consultation and/or negotiating arrangements should be followed so that staff and/or their representatives can contribute their views.
An employer should then develop an action plan that includes:
  • what the problem is
  • how it was identified
  • the proposed solution/s
  • actions to be taken to achieve the solution/s
  • dates by which each action should be achieved
  • how staff will be kept informed on progress
  • a date to review the plan and see if it has achieved its aim.
Once solutions have been implemented, the review should check that agreed actions have been done and evaluate how effective these have been. The views of staff, and data collected on employee turnover, sickness absence and productivity, can help compare the organisation against how it was before the action plan was implemented.
An employer will then need to consider what, if any, further action is needed.

Spotting when staff may be experiencing stress

While identifying work-related risks and taking preventative measures should help minimise stress for most staff, it may still affect some team members due to issues inside or outside of the workplace. Managers should be prepared to help and support a team member experiencing stress.
Although training on stress can be very useful, a manager should not be expected to be an expert.
It is important to never make assumptions, but signs that a team member may be stressed include:
  • changes in the person's usual behaviour, mood or how they interact with colleagues
  • changes in the standard of their work or focus on tasks
  • appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn and reduced interest in tasks they previously enjoyed
  • changes in appetite and/or increase in smoking and drinking alcohol
  • an increase in sickness absences and/or turning up late to work.

Talking to a team member who may be experiencing stress

Where a manager thinks a team member may be experiencing stress, they should approach the matter in the same way set out in the guidance on Managing staff experiencing mental ill health. This is because without talking to the team member, it is impossible to know what is affecting them and therefore a consistent approach should be taken. 
Additionally, organisations should encourage staff to talk to their manager if they think they are becoming unwell. Creating a working environment that proactively supports staff who become unwell will make it easier for staff to tell their manager if they are experiencing stress.
For more information on how to do this, go to Promoting positive mental health in the workplace.
If a team member does approach their manager to advise they are experiencing stress, the manager should:
  • move the conversation to a private space, where they will not be disturbed (if not already somewhere appropriate)
  • thank the team member for coming to them and letting them know
  • be patient and allow them as much time as they need to talk about it
  • remain focused on what they say
  • be open minded
  • try to identify what the cause is
  • think about potential solutions.
If the cause of stress relates to their relationship with their manager, or other team members, it may be beneficial to involve Human Resources, if the organisation has one, or a more senior manager and allow the team member to have a companion (such as a work colleague or trade union representative) at any meetings.

Supporting a team member experiencing stress

Where it is possible to identify a work-related problem, a manager (in discussion with the team member) should consider what support or changes would rectify the situation. They could be temporary or permanent.
Usually small, simple changes to working arrangements or responsibilities will help ease pressures affecting the team member.
It may take a number of informal meetings with the team member to agree the best way forward. Some changes may also require authorisation from senior management, HR or the owner of the business. A manager should explain if they believe a potential change may require authorisation and when an answer should be received. If authorisation is refused, a manager should clearly explain the reasons why this was not practicable and try to find an alternative solution.
If changes are agreed and made, a manager should also agree with the team member what their work colleagues will be told.
Even if the cause of stress may not be work-related, changes to the team member's working arrangements may help reduce some of the pressure they are experiencing. For example, temporarily changing their working hours may reduce stress caused by caring responsibilities for an ill-relative.

Monitoring the situation

A manager should regularly check on how a team member experiencing stress is feeling and whether any changes in place are still needed and/or working as required. This could be through planned one-to-one meetings or through informal chats in the workplace.
Even once the team member is able to resume their normal working arrangements, their manager should continue to monitor their health and offer support where necessary.

Acas training and support

We can visit your organisation to help you understand what needs to be done to address a range of issues related to stress management and the identification of critical issues in your workplace and then work with you to develop practical solutions. Find out more from our Workshops, projects and business solutionspage.
We also offer training courses to help managers in your organisation.
View course details and availability.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

POLITICAL FUND: Have your say on its future

UNISON is currently in the middle of our second round of consultation into changes to the political fund, as required by the Trade Union Act. Members have until 12 January to have their say.
The Trade Union Act requires unions with political funds to move from an ‘opt-out’ to an ‘opt-in’ arrangement by March 2018.
As a consequence the process of joining UNISON will alter. At the current time the political fund is incorporated into the subscription, with new members indicating which section of the fund they wish to support (Labour Link or General Political Fund) and having an opportunity to ‘opt out’ afterwards.
In the future all new members will have to actively ‘opt in’ to paying the political fund component as an addition to the subscription they pay for core union services.

Information on the UNISON website at 

Download the consultation document here.

Responses to the consultation should be sent to

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

UNISON Christmas gathering

It that time of year again!!

We will holding a Christmas gathering on Friday 8th December in the Chequers from 4pm.

Drink tickets will be handed out and we will be doing a raffle again this year.

We really hope all of you can make it, don’t worry if you cannot make 4pm as it is just a starting time and plenty of people will be arriving later.

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Saturday, 2 December 2017

UNISON There for You – Winter Fuel Grants 2017-2018

Worried about paying your Winter Fuel Bill?
Get help staying warm this winter
With rising fuel costs and another cold winter many members are worried about how they’re going to pay this year’s winter fuel bills.

Help is on hand
“There for You” has set up a limited fund to help UNISON members on low income by way of a one-off payment of up to £50.

To apply and download the application form:

or simply contact your local UNISON branch office on or ring UNISON Direct 0800 0857 857for a form to be sent to you

Ever Thought of becoming a UNISON rep?

If you want more info or a informal chat please email, you may be surprised what you can achieve

Monday, 27 November 2017

Did you know that some life changing conditions should be automatically treated as a disability - The Equality Act and Cancer, MS and HIV

When someone is diagnosed with a condition, which may be progressive or life threatening, they might worry about whether or not to tell their employer. Equally an employer (or colleagues) may want to provide support, but worry about doing or saying the wrong thing. An employer can often be an important source of support for the employee trying to manage their condition so it is generally a good idea to discuss issues with them.
The Equality Act can also provide protection for certain illnesses when they are established as a disability.
Under the Equality Act a person is disabled if they have 'a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities'. 
However, there are exceptions to this definition. These exceptions include certain medical diagnoses, progressive and life-threatening conditions. A progressive condition is one that gets worse over time, such as muscular dystrophy and motor neurone disease. Employees with a progressive condition can be classed as disabled. 
Employees will automatically be protected against discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 from the day they are diagnosed if they have Cancer, HIV or Multiple Sclerosis. However, many people with these conditions can work and have an active and fulfilling career.

Key points

  • Three potentially progressive and life-threatening conditions - Cancer, HIV and Multiple Sclerosis - are regarded as disabilities from the point of diagnosis.
  • The more serious the condition the more likely it may be that a suggested adjustment for the employee would be seen as reasonable by an employment tribunal. The adjustment, though, would need to be reasonable and would be considered against the circumstances of the individual case.
  • The law covering sickness absence for these three conditions is the same as for other disabilities. However, it may be more likely that taking what is termed 'disability leave', rather than sick leave, might be seen as a 'reasonable adjustment'.
This web page should be used together with Acas guide pdf icon Disability discrimination: key points for the workplace [601kb]It includes more of the considerations for employers and employees in practically and sensitively dealing with circumstances where an employee has a potentially progressive or life-threatening condition. Also, it signposts to where they can find out more.   

Telling an employer

Generally, in law, an employee does not have to tell their employer about their condition, but it may be more practical for them to do so, so the employer can support them and take their condition into consideration. However, there are some circumstances where an employee must tell their employer if they have MS or HIV.

More info can be found at ACAS or by talking to your local steward.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

UNISON is launching a new model trans equality policy

UNISON is launching a new model trans equality policy to help equip people to challenge transphobia in the workplace.
Today is Trans Day of Remembrance, an international day that brings attention to just how much transphobia people face every day. It is why UNISON is launching the new model policy today.
Most employers still don’t have specific policies on trans equality and those who are developing them often consult UNISON on draft policies. These drafts reveal widespread confusion about appropriate language, good practice and even the law.
UNISON has developed a new model trans equality policy that organisations can adapt and use. The policy covers a statement of commitment, definitions of terms, legal protections for trans workers, recruitment, tackling discrimination, transitioning at work, promotion and monitoring of the policy.
The model policy accompanies other UNISON advice on trans workers’ rights, our guide for reps supporting trans members, and our guide on Gender identity: non-binary inclusion.
These can all be found in the resources section at

Monday, 20 November 2017

'Don’t fall apart': Managing your mind at work

"For the whole eight hour shift you have to pretend you're OK." 
Talking to family or friends is one thing, but speaking about your mental health at work can be really daunting. 
Here on Like Minds we've been finding out who you should tell, and how to make it a bit easier to start the conversation.
Click to watch short video  Produced by Tom Heyden and India Rakusen 
If you - or someone you know - have been affected by mental health issues, the following may be able to help.

Mental Health Foundation

Mental Health Foundation provides a guide to Mental Health problems, topical issues and treatment options via their website.


Mind provides advice and support on a range of topics including types of mental health problem, legislation and details of local help and support in England and Wales.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (weekdays 9am - 6pm)


YoungMinds offers information, support and advice for children and young people.
Help for concerned parents of those under 25 is offered by phone.
Phone: 0808 802 5544 (Mon–Fri 9.30am-4pm)


Inspire (Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health) provides local services to support the mental health and wellbeing of people across Northern Ireland.
Phone: 028 9032 8474


SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) can provide general mental health information, advise you on your rights and signpost you to your local services

Community Advice & Listening Line

Community Advice & Listening Line offers emotional support and information on mental health and related matters to people in Wales.
Phone: 0800 132 737 (24/7) or text "help" to 81066

Monday, 13 November 2017

Bullying, harassment, victimisation: What's the difference?

In everyday language, bullying, victimisation and harassment can be used almost interchangeably to mean similar things.
But in the Equality Act 2010, victimisation and harassment have quite specific meanings - while 'bullying' doesn't feature as a legal term at all.


Harassment may include bullying behaviour, and it refers to bad treatment that is related to a protected characteristic, such as age, sex, disability, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.
More specifically, the law defines it as 'unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.'
It can include behaviour that individuals find offensive even if it's not directed at them, and even if they do not have the relevant protected characteristics themselves.


Victimisation broadly refers to bad treatment directed towards someone who has made or is believed to have made or supported a complaint under the Equality Act.
It includes situations where a complaint hasn't yet been made but someone is victimised because it's suspected they might make one.
If an individual gives false evidence or makes an allegation in bad faith, then they are not protected from victimisation under the Act.


Bullying can be defined as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse of misuse of power that undermines, humiliates, denigrates or injures the recipient (emotionally or physically) - but it doesn't have a legal definition in the Equality Act. In fact bullying behaviour is very similar to harassment, but it is not related to a protected characteristic.
That said, the absence of bullying from the statute books doesn't mean that people who are being bullied - rather than harassed - have no protections. Neither does it mean that bullies can get away with doing whatever they like as long as their behaviour is not concerning a protected characteristic.
Employers have a 'duty of care' for their employees. No good firm would want its people working in an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.
In any case, organisations that don't act on bullying effectively are likely to see lower levels of performance, productivity and engagement, as well as increased absence and high staff turnover - all of which can damage the bottom line.
People who feel they are being bullied are usually advised to raise a formal grievance if the matter cannot be resolved informally.
Dealing with grievances internally can be costly in time and money, and sap morale among staff. A breakdown in mutual trust and confidence at work because of bullying could leave employers open to claims of constructive dismissal at an employment tribunal.
So it's in every employer's interests to promote a safe, healthy and fair environment in which people can work without fear of being bullied, harassed or victimised.
Equally it's also in an employer's interests to try and nip unwanted behaviour in the bud by dealing with matters quickly and informally, where they can, thereby protecting the working relationship.

What constitutes workplace bullying?

What constitutes workplace bullying? The most likely things that come to mind are threatening, abusive or patronising behaviours at work. Increasingly, these behaviours are reinforced by email or online work forums, and may even continue outside of work on social media sites.

Take a look at or talk to your local steward as we are here for you.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Equal pay

Key points

Employers must give men and women equal treatment in the terms and conditions of their employment contract if they are employed to do:
  • 'like work' - work that is the same or broadly similar
  • work rated as equivalent under a job evaluation study (see: Recruitment)
  • work found to be of equal value in terms of effort, skill or decision making.
Employees can compare any terms in the contract of employment with the equivalent terms in a comparators contract.  A comparator is an employee of the opposite sex working for the same employer, doing like work of equal value. However, an employer may defend a claim if they show the reason for the difference is due to a genuine factor and not based on the sex of the employee.
Employees are also entitled to know how their pay is made up. For example, if there is a bonus system, everyone should know how to earn bonuses and how they are calculated.
The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to prevent employees from having discussions to establish if there are differences in pay. However, an employer can require their employees to keep pay rates confidential from people outside of the workplace.

The gender pay gap

The gender pay gap differs from equal pay as it is concerned with the differences in the average pay between men and women over a period of time no matter what their role is. Equal pay deals with the pay differences between men and women who carry out the same or similar jobs. For information on the gender pay gap and the forthcoming regulations on calculating it, see our Gender pay gap reporting page.
The equal terms can cover all aspects of pay and benefits, including:
  • basic pay
  • overtime rates
  • performance related benefits
  • hours of work
  • access to pension schemes
  • non monetary terms
  • annual leave entitlements.

What to do if you think you are not receiving equal pay

An employee who thinks they are not receiving equal pay can write to their employer asking for information that will help them establish whether there is a pay difference and if so the reasons for the difference.
If an employee cannot resolve the problem informally or through the formal grievance procedure, they may complain to an employment tribunal under the Equality Act 2010 while still working in the job or up to six months after leaving the employment to which your claim relates.
Since 1 October 2014 employers who lose equal pay claims could be forced to conduct an equal pay audit and publish the results.
For more on the Equality Act 2010, see our Equality and discrimination section.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

One in 10 council workers paid below the living wage

One in 10 council workers paid below the living wage, says UNISON​

One in ten council workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are paid below the living wage, according to an analysis from UNISON released today (Friday).
Ahead of the Living Wage Foundation’s living wage week, UNISON is calling on the government to fund councils so they can become living wage employers. If it did, it would lift more than 60,000 cleaners, library assistants, residential and home care workers and other local authority staff out of poverty, says UNISON.
The new living wage rates are due to be announced next week. They are currently £9.75 an hour in London and £8.45 in the rest of the UK. The bottom hourly rate in local government is £7.78.
UNISON head of local government Heather Wakefield said: “Poverty pay should have no place in local government. It is shocking that so many public service workers, who are providing valuable services to communities up and down the country, are paid so little.
“Their work and dedication needs to be recognised. Living wage week is the perfect opportunity for the government to lift staff out of poverty and ensure that work pays fairly.
“Over three-quarters of local government workers are women. Low pay is contributing to the growing gender pay gap.
“The Chancellor must come up with the cash in the Budget to fund a decent, above inflation, pay rise for all public service workers.”

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

handing out High 5s to safety

UNISON is celebrating European Health and Safety Week (23-29 October) by handing out High 5s to safety reps and branches who are out there doing all sorts of things to deliver healthier, safer workplaces for members. 
Whatever you are doing, no matter how big or small, tell us about it and we will:
  • feature it on our Facebook page
  • tweet it from our Twitter page (#HSHigh5)
  • put it on our health and safety webpage
  • feature you in a forthcoming issue of H&S Organiser.
We will also send you one of our ‘not to be missed’ UNISON goodie bags. So come on, tell us what you are doing to celebrate European Health and Safety Week and get a High 5.
Send information and pictures to:

Monday, 23 October 2017

Advise on Managing staff experiencing mental ill health from ACAS

Managers deal with ill health on a regular basis. While they are usually confident in dealing with physical ill health, they may be less sure of how best to approach mental ill health. Yet it should be fairly similar, with a focus on how they can best support the team member back to work and/or to perform at their best.

The role of a manager

Managers play a crucial role for organisations that wants to encourage strong performance and support employee wellbeing. A manager should:
  • be approachable, available and encourage staff to talk to them if they are having problems
  • tailor their management style to suit the needs of each staff member
  • monitor staff workloads, set realistic targets and be clear about priorities
  • have regular one-to-ones and catch-ups to check on how work is going, identify upcoming challenges and what support may be required.

Spot the signs of mental ill health

The earlier a manager becomes aware that a team member is experiencing mental ill health, the sooner steps can be taken to prevent it becoming more serious and provide support to help them during this period.
A manager should never make assumptions, but signs of mental ill health can include:
  • changes in usual behaviour, mood or how they interact with colleagues
  • changes in the standard of their work or focus on tasks
  • appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn and reduced interest in tasks they previously enjoyed
  • changes in appetite and/or increase in smoking and drinking
  • increase in sickness absence and/or turning up late to work.
Of course, not everyone who experiences mental ill health will exhibit obvious signs. So, it is important for a manager to regularly ask team members 'how they are doing' and create an environment where staff feel able to be open and honest about how they are feeling.

Encourage staff to develop their own Wellness Action Plans

Staff who have previously experienced mental ill health may find it beneficial to develop Wellness Action Plans that can be used to identify:  
  • triggers, symptoms and early warning signs
  • how mental ill health may impact performance
  • what support they need from their manager.
The charity Mind has a practical guide on creating Wellness Action Plans. For more information, go to and search for 'Wellness Action Plans'.

Talking to a team member who may be experiencing mental ill health

Knowing how to best approach and talk to a team member who may be experiencing mental ill health may seem difficult, and it can be tempting to avoid the matter.
However, it is much better to try to resolve concerns at an early stage and nip issues in the bud before they can escalate further or worsen. 
A manager who believes a team member may be experiencing mental ill health should take the lead and arrange a meeting as soon as possible to talk to the team member in private. The conversation should be approached in a positive and supportive way.
A manager should also be prepared for a team member to come and talk to them about their mental health. This can be very difficult for both the team member and the manager, so it is vital that the manager stays calm and patient, is supportive and offers reassurance.
A manager should:
  • move the conversation to a private space, where they will not be disturbed (if not already somewhere appropriate)
  • thank the team member for coming to talk to them
  • allow them as much time as they need
  • focus on what the team member says
  • be open minded
  • try to identify what the cause is
  • think about potential solutions
  • be prepared for the unexpected
  • adjourn the meeting if it is necessary to think through what has been discussed before making a decision.
Acas offers Training courses for managers on having difficult conversations.

Managing a team member who may feel unable to talk

Of course, a team member may not want to talk about issues they are going through. A manager should not try to rush them or pressure them to talk. Instead, it may be best for a manager to simply ensure that the team member knows they are available at any time, to talk about anything.
A manager should then monitor the situation. If they continue to see and hear things that concern them, they may need to seek further advice and guidance from HR, senior management or Occupational Health.

Supporting a team member during periods of mental ill health

If a team member's mental ill health amounts to a disability, an organisation must consider making 'reasonable adjustments' to help them carry out their job without being at a disadvantage.
To understand more about what is likely to amount to a disability, see the Acas guide, pdf icon Disability discrimination: key points for the workplace [392kb].
However (whether it amounts to a disability or not), it makes sense for organisations to make changes that will help staff attend work and/or reduce the pressures on their mental ill health.
Usually small, simple changes to working arrangements or responsibilities will be all that are required. For example, allowing them to have more rest breaks or working with them each day to help prioritise their workload.
Any adjustment should only be made following discussion and agreement between the manager and team member on what might be helpful and what is possible. The team member will often know what support or changes they need. An Occupational Health referral can also help to identify adjustments that should be made.
Once an adjustment has been agreed, a manager should document this. Any change should be regularly monitored and reviewed to check that it is providing the support required.

Supporting the rest of your team

When team members become aware that a work colleague is experiencing mental ill health they may find it distressing.
A manager should be prepared to support the team more than they usually would. This might include being around their team, and having catch-ups with each member on how they are doing. The manager should also make clear that they are available at any time to talk about any concerns or worries a team member may have.
Where an organisation has additional support services (such as mental health first aiders or employee assistance programmes), a manager should also promote these services so staff understand how they may benefit from using them.

Managing absence related to mental ill health

Sometimes staff experiencing mental ill health will need to be absent from work for a period of time. This may be because they are too ill to work or it could be because the medication they are on means they are not able to safely carry out their work. To support staff while they are away from the workplace, a manager should:
  • agree when and how regular contact will be maintained during the absence
  • be positive, professional and supportive at all times
  • agree what the team member would like their work colleagues to know about their absence and how they are doing
  • not pressure the team member to return to work before they feel ready
  • encourage a phased return
  • use Occupational Health where practicable to look at ways the organisation can support the team member return to work.
Maintaining regular contact is vital. Lack of contact can lead to misunderstandings, make the team member feel that they are not missed and make it much harder for them to return. Sometimes, it may be appropriate to arrange to meet up in a neutral venue away from the workplace to catch up.
An absent team member may request no contact, but it is important that a manager does not accept this. However, if the team member alleges that the manager has been a factor in their mental ill health, it may be preferable for them to stay in contact with another manager or HR.
Occupational Health can assess the team member and advise what adjustments could be made to help the team member return to work.
Many organisations have a contract with an Occupational Health provider. If your organisation does not, Fit for Work offers free occupational health assessments for staff who reach four weeks of sickness absence. For more information, go to

Helping a team member return to work

When a team member is ready to return to work, it is important to ensure that they feel supported and understand what will be expected of them on their return.
A manager should consider meeting them away from the workplace before they return to discuss their return and alleviate any concerns they may have.
A return-to-work interview should also be held once they do return. It provides a good opportunity to:
  • welcome them back to work
  • check they are well enough to return
  • update them on any workplace news they may have missed while away
  • discuss their absence
  • discuss any worries the person has about returning to work
  • confirm their working arrangements and what plans and adjustments are in place to support them in their work
  • allow them to ask questions.

Approaching potential disciplinary or capability matters

Most staff who experience mental ill health will recover and return to being a valuable and productive member of the team. However on some occasions, even with adjustments in place, a team member's performance or conduct may warrant further action.
Before taking action a manager should consider whether:
  • additional adjustments or further support may improve performance or conduct
  • other lighter duties or a transfer to different role may be available.
If further action is necessary the manager must follow the organisation's procedures for handling these matters and ensure that a fair process is completed as set out in Discipline and grievances at work: The Acas guide.

Acas training courses

Acas has developed an e-learning course in conjunction with Mindful Employer on Mental Health Awareness for Employers.
Other courses include:
  • Managing people
  • Managing Absence
  • Discipline & Grievance
  • Performance Management
Further information is available from Acas Learning OnLine. Acas also runs practical Training courses to equip managers, supervisors and HR professionals with the necessary skills to deal with employment relations issues and create more productive workplace environments.

Further support for managers and staff

  • Access to work - - can provide advice and an assessment of workplace needs for individuals, with disabilities or long-term health conditions, who are already in work or about to start. Grants may also be available to help cover the cost of workplace adaptations.
  • Business in the Community - - is a network that provides toolkits on Mental Health, Suicide prevention and Suicide postvention to help employers support the mental health and wellbeing of employees.
  • Mind - - is a leading mental health charity in England and Wales. It provides information and support on how to improve mental health.
  • Mindful Employer - - is a UK-wide, NHS initiative. It is aimed at increasing awareness of mental health at work and providing support for businesses when recruiting and retaining staff.
  • NHS choices - - has a website that offers information and practical advice for anyone experiencing mental ill health.
  • Remploy - - offers a free and confidential Workplace Mental Health Support Service for anyone absent from work or finding work difficult because of a mental health condition. It aims to help people remain in, or return to, their role.
  • Rethink Mental Illness - - is a voluntary sector provider of mental health services offering support groups, advice and information on mental health and problems.

Let’s say thank you to all our key workers

UNISON has become a partner in the /together coalition, which this weekend will unite the country to celebrate the NHS’ birthday and ...