27 September 2021

Trade unions: essential for inclusion

Andy blogs on "United for Inclusion" the theme for National Inclusion Week.

The theme for National Inclusion Week this year is United for Inclusion, “working in a united approach will strengthen the impact we can have on inclusion within our organisations, industries and the wider world.” Of course, this seems obvious to us as trade unionists – but it is good to see a national themed week promoting trade unionism.

Within PCS we have equality strands and I am a member of the national disabled members’ forum. Having strands isn’t about dividing but about bringing the lived experience of members from those strands together, from different employer groups, from different regions and nations, so that we can ensure that those voices and experiences are fed into the national executive committee and our viewpoints are included, and importantly, valued.

Inclusion can, as a concept, be a stranger to disabled people. 19% of working age adults are disabled, and there are roughly 4.4 million disabled workers. But a disabled person is almost twice as likely to be unemployed[1]. My experience, as a rep, is that getting the reasonable adjustments for disabled members can sometimes be fraught – though eventually physical adjustments are normally attained. But there can be challenges and the withdrawal of Access to Work provisions for the ministerial departments will only increase that challenge – the government removing a pathway for inclusion and my department, certainly, in no way prepared to deal with this. The introduction of hybrid working increasing the challenge as adjustments will need to be replicated at home and in the office. When it comes to non-physical adjustments my experience as a rep is that our employers are poor at best. Because of this, National Inclusion Week’s theme reminds us that our unity, through PCS, is essential if members from all the underrepresented characteristics are to attain true inclusion.

Here are some ways you can help build an inclusive environment:

  1. Join PCS and get involved and participate in union activity
  2. Talk about what inclusion means for you and others at work and in your community
  3. It’s everybody’s responsibility to create an inclusive environment – make colleagues feel welcome and heard in every interaction
  4. If your workplaces values don’t feel inclusive, speak to your line manager/HR or union rep about your concerns and how they could rectify them
  5. Get involved in your staff networks and equality groups to contribute your voice on how to build diverse and inclusive workplaces
  6. Go to the National Inclusion Week website to access free information and resources

[1] Figures from https://www.scope.org.uk/media/disability-facts-figures/