Spring into action: how CSP reps kept their cool in the workplace

After many years of hot and uncomfortable working conditions, we explore how CSP reps kept their cool

In the Workplace
[Illustrations: Jo Goodberry]

Winter is behind us, but the changing seasons means increasing levels of discomfort for many. We explore how the collaborative efforts of CSP representatives can bring about significant improvements for members. We pick CSP steward Davina Lambie’s brains about the tactics and strategies she employed with her fellow reps, Lisa Stoner and Alison Nadakavukaran, at their NHS employer.

What was your workplace win? 

After many years of hot and uncomfortable working conditions, in June 2022 we won the right to wear shorts at work! 

What was the opposition to the change? 

This had come from senior nursing and allied health profession staff. Their objections were centred on aesthetics, and the perception that the profession’s image was being threatened.

What tactics were used by the CSP to change the policy? 

Many! We brought it up at the joint staff side consultative committee, in meetings with our managers, and we even invited ourselves to senior nursing meetings to present the case. 

We set up a ‘hot and uncomfortable’ working group, and with our CSP health and safety reps we carried out numerous risk assessments and completed multiple incident reports. 

Despite all this, several hot summers came and went…

So, what did you do next? 

We joined our staffside chair – who acts as the representative for all health unions in the trust – and approached our chief executive officer. This prompted some executive-level discussions behind the scenes.

Did you do this work alone?

No, as this wasn’t a physio-specific issue. Our nursing colleagues were not allowed to remove their tights in hot weather without explicit permission. So, the CSP worked with other trade unions’ representatives to keep the issue on the agenda.

One of the barriers to progress was being told by senior staff that they would not allow shorts for physios only, because this would not result in equality of rights. So, we insisted that they should be permitted for all, and stuck to our guns. 

We also insisted that anyone wearing a dress should be able to remove their tights whenever they wanted.

What obstacles did you face, and how did you overcome them? 

CSP reps worked on this project on top of our clinical caseloads, which limited the sustained pressure we could exert on trust management. 

However, we had good support from human resources. Securing occupational therapy support – and support from all the other healthcare unions – was also really important.

We also engaged our physiotherapy manager by discussing this at our monthly meetings. They in-turn could raise this with senior staff. This helped with the final push we needed to get the policy reviewed - just in time for the approaching summer.

We also had to make a few concessions. We agreed staff would need to buy their own shorts, avoiding any cost to the trust. We also agreed on precise wording – requiring shorts be ‘knee-length and tailored’ – to help ease senior staff’s aesthetic qualms.

What was the response from staff once the change in policy came through? 

We got lots of happy feedback, with a real buzz around the place. We since reflected that this was due to this change resulting in a renewed sense of autonomy, which had been taken away from us during the pandemic.

One of the best things is that other regional hospitals are now trying to follow suit. It’s great to see our work having an impact beyond our own employer. 

Now over to you

CSP stewards and safety reps strive to improve the working conditions of all members. Thinking of stepping up? email us at jointheteam@csp.org.uk

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