So another year has passed for the Branch and I think I am now finding my feet as an Officer. Two years of further education in Employment Law, which has taken up a lot of my time, is over and I feel confident I can advise our own reps in this field and especially in equality matters.
Engagement I've attempted to organise the SOGs with mixed success and hope, with the help of the SOG Leads, to concentrate on this work to engage with those members who deem themselves part of the equality groups. I still would like to see energetic debate and sharing within the safe environment of the Facebook pages I have an idea of how we can spread the word about their existence and encourage people to join and participate.
Case work It still worries me that we don't really know, as a Branch, how many equality cases are created annually, how many end in discrimination, how many members potentially qualify as disabled or whether the appropriate advise was asked for etc. I would like to see us at least attempt to overhaul our case coordination system to allow for self-audit of the work we do.
In terms of equality; the most troubling protected characteristic for me remains that of disability. As mentioned above, I don’t know how many equality cases we covered during 2016; but it felt like a busy year and has continued into the new year. I would like to see cases that fall under the equality umbrella ‘shut down’ before they have a chance to develop into a situation that is difficult to come back from. For example, this week I have had two cases- one is a member at the start of their journey down the sickness absence management pathway. Because it is so early on I have been able to have a meeting with the manager and the member and encouraged a certain treatment of that member by virtue of their qualification as having a disability. The manager appreciated the input and a productive working relationship will surely continue. The other case is at the appeal stage of the Capability process whereby the member is officially not employed by the Trust due to dismissal on grounds of being incapable to perform their substantive role and a failed redeployment process (or lack of). It is a very difficult prospect to change the Trusts mind on the decision made a few months ago, it would have been a lot easier when the member was first sickness managed. The Capability process is broken in the Trust and although the Disability Policy has made great steps in protecting those members covered by it; managers aren't aware or willing to learn how this policy should be used in conjunction with sickness absence management policies.
So I guess what I'm saying is; we as a Branch need to get better at formulating our own information on the amount and type of cases we do, speeding up when we get involved in cases and pushing for the organisation to educate their managers on best practice rather than how to achieve a predetermined goal like the Capability process. I look forward to working with you all this year.