Who would you turn to if you were experiencing bullying, downbanding, difficulties in booking your holiday, or workplace stress?
In a recent case one employer had plans to cancel all leave for staff over Christmas. Working hours were also due to change and a reorganisation was taking place that ignored individual needs, such as disability and caring commitments.
Thankfully, these plans were reversed due to the early input of a CSP steward who worked with managers to ensure the correct policies were adhered to and the process for such changes was fair.
There are more than 700 CSP stewards across the UK, and about 400 health and safety reps. At a local and regional level the society’s workplace reps volunteer their time to support members, giving them a voice in the workplace, ensuring fair treatment, and helping to demonstrate physiotherapy’s value.
Our reps, all working physios and physio support workers, are trained by the CSP to offer support and expert advice to members facing a variety of employment issues. As well as helping members to enforce their legal rights, reps also aim to empower members, individually and collectively, to help themselves, increasing their influence in the workplace.
Much of their work takes place ‘behind the scenes’, as it involves discussions on behalf of individuals or groups of members with managers. As they often deal with confidential and sensitive matters involving employers and employees, many success stories go unnoticed. But there are plenty of examples that reps have reported to the CSP.
At one NHS organisation a group of band 8a advanced practitioners were facing the prospect of being downgraded to band 7. Fortunately, the proposals were averted when the members followed advice from their steward and lodged a grievance. This highlighted that the employer had failed to follow the organisation’s formal change policy. As a result alternative job descriptions were agreed and the new roles classified as band 8a: a win for clinical leadership in the trust.
In another case a steward advised a group of members to submit a collective grievance against their employer for the underpayment of weekend working unsocial hours enhancements. The complaint was successful and resulted in staff receiving back pay for the previous year.
Physiotherapy staff have also secured better work-life balance with the assistance of workplace reps. For example, one steward successfully challenged the rejection of a member’s flexible working request, by lodging a formal grievance and providing the employer with strong evidence to back up the request.
When workplace reps speak up for staff, patients are invariably the beneficiaries. An engaged workforce is healthier, happier, more productive and delivers better care, the evidence shows. With the help of our reps, CSP physiotherapy staff also promote and protect services.
Last year the lease was due to expire on a building that housed a large physio department and hydrotherapy pool. The building was due to be demolished to make way for a housing development. A steward at the trust that leased the building raised the matter with managers, and passed on staff concerns. As a result the plans have been put on hold.
Inadequate health and safety measures can lead to sickness, injury and workplace stress. One CSP safety rep assessed staff for musculoskeletal, eye or stress problems before new laptops were introduced to their department. This led to preventive action to manage health issues related to the equipment changes.
Reps also help get sick or injured CSP members back to work. In a recent case, one member had to take long-term sick leave because of bullying and harassment at work. But thanks to support from their local steward rep, they are now back to work, in a less stressful job and with a plan in place to prevent similar problems arising. fl
To see more examples of the work of CSP workplace reps, visit www.csp.org.uk/workplacewins See also page 22.
A steward’s view
Heledd Tomos is a neuro-physiotherapist at Morriston Hospital in Swansea, part of Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University health board. She has been a CSP steward for five years and is also a regional steward for Wales.
Mrs Tomos often helps members with workplace issues involving re-banding, pay, weekend and seven-day working, and on-call arrangements.
‘In between patients a lot of my time is spent checking emails from members, giving advice and helping to sort out problems,’ says Mrs Tomos.
As well as dealing with individuals’ concerns she also works closely with managers to make sure that any new plans take members into account. This involves checking that appropriate consultations take place and that members are kept informed.
Mrs Tomos says her interventions have led to many positive outcomes for staff, but she advises: ‘Get in touch with a steward if you have any queries or issues that you feel are coming up. It’s much better for us to be involved early on, even if you think it’s only something small – because if it does progress, and there are formal policy procedures, then we can’t undo things that have already been done.’
A safety rep’s view
CSP health and safety rep Elizabeth Lander is a band 6 musculoskeletal physio at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. She’s also a regional health and safety rep.
Her role includes negotiating on behalf of members to protect their health and safety, ensuring workplace changes are risk-assessed before they are implemented and working closely with the local CSP steward.
‘Managers will often discuss things like the introduction of new technology or on-call arrangements with us and then we make sure that all the correct processes are being followed,’ says Mrs Lander.
‘We make sure that everyone gets a voice, because some people aren’t comfortable bringing their views forward or find it intimidating to talk to managers about their concerns.’
Mrs Lander also strives to combat workplace stress, spearheading in 2013 a stress survey in the trust’s physiotherapy department. The findings have led to regular ‘open door’ sessions with managers, a fortnightly communication hearing to keep staff updated and monthly meetings that include reports on staffing, finances and efficiency initiatives.
‘I think improving staff engagement is one of the best ways of reducing stress levels,’ explains Mrs Lander. ‘Staff are the NHS’s most important resource so we need to look after them and make them healthier and happier.’