Equality is something that I have been passionate about for some time. Before Community I worked in a residential unit for people with mental health illnesses and I volunteered as a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist. I helped people physically and mentally which was a very rewarding job and increased my awareness by giving me first-hand experience. As a Learning Organiser I have the opportunity to increase other people’s awareness through training funded through the Welsh Union Learning Fund (WULF).
After becoming trained as an equalities rep I have the knowledge and skills to promote more equalities issues in the workplace. Menopause and domestic violence are the key areas that I have been looking to publicise as a start. From my experience you can bring around a change in culture and practices with the implementation of a workplace policy.
Menopause can be a very distressing time for people, with a range of symptoms that differ from person to person but hot flushes, night sweats and low mood are some of the more well-known affects. A policy can give a person the confidence to communicate with their managers about their issues and to ask for adjustments at work to be made where possible which could help a person through their experiences. Adjustments such as flexible working, facilities to changing or washing facilities or breathable uniform could really make a difference.
With one in four women and one in six men experiencing some form of domestic violence at some point in their lifetime, it is vital employers have policies in place. It has been a taboo subject which I believe needs more awareness raising, for more individuals to speak out and know what services are available to help. A Domestic Violence policy can give workers information and advice as well as opening a door for those who could be suffering in silence or having such difficulties at home.
Just one of the workplaces I’ve approached on these two issues is Acorn. Acorn are a contractor based onsite in Tata Port Talbot. Being a male dominated workplace and sector, it can be difficult to raise equalities issues. However, as a result of a good relationship and after discussions, managers have agreed to sign a Learning Agreement, Menopause at Work Policy and Domestic Violence Policy. This is a huge step in the right direction, one that will help people working at Acorn in the months and years ahead.
Mark Rudge, Director of Operations told me “We are more than happy to sign up and rollout both the Menopause Policy and Domestic Violence Policy. I see these policies as key to enhancing awareness of the challenging situations our employees can find themselves in.” He continued by saying “It is all too easy for people to bottle things up and for employers to sometimes overlook these issues. We want our employees to know that we care and will support them wherever possible”. It is my hope that other workplaces will follow suit and that we can continue to train individuals in a range of equality issues through WULF.
Even if a policy helps change one individual’s experience of work or their personal life then I believe it is worth it.