Union to investigate work-related stress

Prospect delegates back motion to investigate work-related mental health issues, starting with the defence sector
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By Tevye Markson

11 Jun 2024

Prospect's biennial conference has asked the union to carry out a survey of members' mental health, starting with defence sector employees.

Delegates of the union – which represents professionals in the civil service and other areas of public service – backed a motion at the union’s conference in Brighton on Sunday. 

Delegates at the conference voted on more than 30 motions on topics including climate change, pensions and artificial intelligence. 

The mental-health motion was put forward by Amy Bishop, an official at the Atomic Weapons Establishment, which is part of the Ministry of Defence.

She told delegates: "As part of the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers have a legal duty to protect workers from stress at work by doing risk assessments and acting on them. They should also be recording those risk assessments. At AWE we’ve found increasing numbers of members coming to us with work-related stress and having to take time off.”

Bishop said the survey, initially to be held among members in defence organisations, “would help Prospect gather evidence of work-related stress but also allow us to find out if employers are fulfilling their legal duty and whether they offer any support to their employees suffering from work-related stress”.

A motion asking for more to be done to fight and root out sexual harassment in workplaces also won support.

Christine Danniell, a member of the union's National Executive Committee who put forward the motion, told the conference: “Sexual harassment by colleagues ranges from inappropriate comments, unwanted touching and so-called banter to serious sexual assaults. We know that tolerance for lower-level misbehaviour can become a breeding ground for the worst excesses and, in some cases, criminality.

“This is a historic issue but it’s one that women have been reluctant to report for good reason. Many of those who are brave enough to do so end up getting blamed, having their career prospects curtailed, or being shunned. These are our members, your colleagues, your friends at work.”

Prospect recently set up a helpline for public servants who experience sexual harassment at work, following revelations about the scale of sexual misconduct at the Ministry of Defence.

Delegates also backed a motion asking the union to use the general election as an opportunity to work with the new government to strengthen the Equality Act “to ensure the most vulnerable members of the workforce, including those affected by disabilities, pregnancy and gender reassignment, are better protected”.

Other motions winning the support of delegates included a call for Prospect to provide greater support to help and encourage its neurodivergent members and an instruction to look at the effects of long Covid and support members affected with the post-Covid syndrome.

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