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.”

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 ...