Unite seminar for shop stewards and health & safety reps hears of impact from Fibromyalgia, Autism and Mental health
Taryn Trainor, Unite Regional Women’s & Equalities Officer explained that her union’s seminar for workplace reps on Hidden Disabilities was a highly appropriate way to mark International Day for Persons with Disabilities.
“Usually Unite organises a commemorative event to mark International Day for Persons with Disabilities, but this day we decided to hold a conference on Hidden Disabilities in the workplace. Our workplace representatives: shop stewards and health & safety reps, all too often find themselves dealing with hidden disabilities that no-one has diagnosed or maybe even noticed previously.”
The event had a focus on Fibromyalgia, Autism and Mental Health with speakers including Margaret Peacock, Director of Fibromyalgia Support, Tom Donoghue and Muriel Cuddy of Health and Fitness Ireland and Andy Hasley of Autism NI. Ms Trainor explained:
“Those suffering from Fibromyalgia or any other auto-immune diseases need reasonable adjustments at work but unfortunately they may have had these conditions for years without being recognised.
The reality is that the waiting list to see a neurological consultant on the NHS is four years – and even those going private have to wait a year. In the meantime, workers are left without recognition or reasonable adjustment.
“The same story goes for autism, which has for generations been under-reported and unrecognised. Indeed the immediate demand for this event came from a shop steward who represented a member whose misdemeanour was a direct result of undiagnosed autism. We need much more training within our own ranks and among wider society on recognising autism.
“As we will all know, mental health is a huge issue for our society and working-class people in particular. But not only do we have much higher proportions of people with mental health issues in Northern Ireland – funding for our mental health services continues to lag behind other parts of the UK. Those at work who have less serious mental health issues but who are working longer-hours and on precarious contracts are often denied the basic protections afforded by the DDA.
“Today is about ensuring that our reps are adequately prepared and equipped to deal with these issues and to defend the interests of our members. We want to see a transition to a positive approach to psychology in the workplace. Empowering our reps is critical in delivering that objective”, Ms Trainor concluded.