Michael tells us how he joined the union and became a rep to help an autistic colleague.
I started working for the DWP Child Maintenance Group in 2016. When I came out of training, there was a person on my team who was autistic. We had become friends during training and when we started work on the phones he found it hard with his disability.
If a phone call got difficult, he would end up not speaking and he would have to force himself to get to the end of the call. After the call he would put his noise cancelling head phones on and log out of the system. The Team Leader didn’t understand what was happening.
The Team Leader knew he was autistic and they even got a bespoke OHS referral but he still didn’t seem to know how to “deal with” my friend and help.
I found who our local PCS rep was and asked how I could help my friend. The rep told me to join the union and suggested that I could become a rep. I thought for all of 2 minutes and signed on the dotted line, joined PCS and became a rep.
After that I worked with my friend to put a pack together to give to management. It was a bit like a carer’s passport, tailored to my friend, holding information about him such as how to help him when he was feeling down and if he was having a sensory day where there was too much information running through his head and how he would normally deal with that.
The other union reps did everything they could and were very supportive of my friend and of me as a new rep. One of the problems is that managers simply don’t have the time to think of any one that needs specialist attention, or requires a reasonable adjustment for a hidden disability.
Since this incident I have been on a quite a few PCS reps’ courses and have dealt with other personal cases relating to performance and attendance management issues.
I’d encourage anyone else to join PCS and think about taking the next step and becoming a rep. It really can make a difference to people’s lives.
Look out for neurodiversity training in your PCS region.