There are many ways a union representative can contribute to a psychologically healthy and safe workplace and help support successful accommodation or return to work. When a worker is also experiencing mental health concerns, this support can be critical to ongoing success on the job.
Union representatives can help in the following ways:
- Promote social support – Encourage a culture of respect and inclusion where workers value one another.
- Provide information and resources – Educate members on both rights and responsibilities associated with the accommodation process. Help workers who may be experiencing mental health concerns access resources and expertise available in the organization and community. Employer Resources at www.workplacestrategiesformentalhealth.com provides a broad range of free and credible resources related to health and wellness.
- Engage workers in the discussion – Help workers be active in identifying and suggesting solutions that may allow them to stay well and continue contributing at work.
- Adopt psychologically safe approaches for settling disputes – Help to resolve workplace issues in a way that may be less confrontational or adversarial, especially for workers experiencing mental health issues. See Conflict response for leaders and Psychologically safe interactions workshop for more ideas.
- Address co-worker concerns – Work with the worker and employer to help ensure that co-worker concerns are addressed and working relationships are respectful. For more information, see Managing co-worker reactions to accommodation.
- Help employers meet the duty to accommodate – Support a reasonable accommodation as outlined in applicable human rights legislation. See Legal duty to accommodate.
- Support return to work success – When a worker is returning to work after a mental health leave, it can be a critical time to support success. Proper planning can address potential issues including working relationships and performance. This begins while the worker is still off work. See Return to work response for leaders.
- Ensure confidentiality – Respect the worker's wishes about which information is kept private and what could be shared to help support a functioning workplace.
- Recommend the use of a tool such as A tool to support employee success – The free tool provides a process to help ensure that the worker is given the best opportunity for a successful accommodation.
- Clarify options – Help workers understand the options available to them in the accommodation process.
- Advocate and support – Help ensure that accommodation plans are focused on worker success in all situations, including when mental health needs to be taken into account.
- Support individual needs – Learn what will support the worker's safe and successful work accommodation.
- Respect collective agreements – Use in-depth knowledge to help ensure that the accommodation process respects the collective agreement.
- Follow up – Periodically check in with the worker and employer to help ensure that the accommodation is working and make suggestions if adjustments are needed.
Additional ideas on how unions can be involved in supporting workers and employers through the implementation of strategies to support psychologically safer workplaces are available in Union and management cooperation.