Mental health problems, Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs: usually back, neck, shoulder and upper limb problems) and Cardiovascular problems account for almost 40% of Fujitsu sickness absence.
There are three basic steps which all employers should take and which help to protect workers from suffering these problems as a result of work:
- Carry out a proper risk assessment for stress, which helps identify the organisational causes of stress, as recommended by the Health & Safety Executive
- Use a competent person to carry out Display Screen Equipment risk assessment (also known as DSE or workstation assessment) to identify and correct potential problems
- Implement the Working Time Regulations which are meant to protect employees against working excessive hours or with inadequate breaks
Fujitsu doesn’t generally carry out risk assessments for stress. DSE assessments in Fujitsu are patchy, and are often “self-assessments” by untrained staff – which do little to protect health but gather evidence to help the company blame employees if they later become ill. Breaches of the Working Time Regulations are routine.
In recent years Fujitsu has introduced more and more intrusive procedures for people to report sickness and on return to work. A key justification for these is that they allow an employer to gather information to address the causes of sickness absence. Many staff feel they are used to bully people into coming into work when unfit – often spreading illness around the office.
UNITE reps have recently learned that the statistics for sickness absence are not even made available by HR to the person responsible for safety. This confirms the impression given by the company’s “health and safety objectives” – which are all about creating a paper trail for auditors – none relate to health or safety outcomes for employees.
Part of the problem is a lack of involvement by employees in their own Health and Safety (H&S). Employers are required by law to consult employees about a range of matters relating to their health and safety, yet outside areas with union recognition the company has no process in place to do so. The minutes of the company’s H&S steering board show that no consultation has taken place at all.
At the suggestion of a trained UNITE H&S rep, Fujitsu Voice has proposed that the company should organise elections for Representatives of Employee Safety (RoES) in areas where we don’t yet have union recognition. RoES have similar powers to union H&S reps – including being entitled to paid release from work for training and to carry out their duties.
If you would like to help improve the health and safety of Fujitsu staff, please stand as a UNITE H&S Rep now, wherever you work in the UK. In areas where the union isn’t yet recognised, this would enable the new reps to start getting involved in advance of the elections we hope to see for RoES – giving them a good chance of being elected and being effective reps.
If you’re interested in standing as a UNITE H&S Rep, please get in touch now.