Unions, charities, and academics joined forces today to call for fairness for workers living with dementia, and for those caring for someone with dementia. They were gathered at Scotland’s first ever dementia conference for union reps at the STUC’s headquarters in Glasgow, organised by STUC, Age Scotland and Alzheimer Scotland with support from the Life Changes Trust and the Big Lottery Fund. The call came in response to testimony that some employers respond badly when dementia arises as a workplace issue.
A new Age Scotland guide to Dementia in the Workplace was launched: to help union reps persuade employers of the business case for treating workers affected by dementia humanely, and to help employers to get abreast of their legal obligations and workplace good practice.
Campaigner James McKillop said: “My supervisor noticed I wasn’t coping, but instead of being supported as I would have been if I had a different health problem, I was castigated. I took a retirement package before I was pushed out or died. There was no retirement ‘do’ with speeches; my colleagues weren’t told until long after I’d gone. Had the job below my level been offered, my work could have been checked, with no disadvantage to customers. Later, after my dementia was diagnosed, I found that my experience is far from unique.”
Ian Tasker, STUC Assistant Secretary, said: “A diagnosis of dementia will have significant and potentially devastating impact on individuals and family members who have to care for them as their condition progresses. The STUC believes a diagnosis should not mean workers diagnosed with dementia, or those who care for them, should be forced out of work and this conference will look at how trade union reps can be better equipped to support members affected by this condition to remain in work as long as practicable.”
Maureen Watt, Minister for Mental Health, said: “Discrimination has no place in a modern Scotland, and clearly that also applies to people in the workplace who are living with dementia. The Scottish Government is committed to supporting job retention and workplace adjustments for people with disabilities - including dementia. For example, through the Fit for Work Scotland scheme which works alongside existing Occupational Health services.
“Everyone newly diagnosed with dementia in Scotland qualifies for a year’s worth of dedicated post-diagnostic support. For people diagnosed while still working, this support will be tailored to meet their circumstances and include advice on understanding and adjusting to their diagnosis and its likely impact.”
Brian Sloan, Age Scotland Chief Executive, said: “As Scotland’s workforce ages we can expect dementia’s impact on workplaces to rise steeply. Unions have a key to play: not only in challenging unfair employment practices where they arise, but also working in partnership with employers to develop dementia aware working cultures from which all can benefit. We look forward to supporting them in that role.”
Amy Dalrymple, Head of Policy at Alzheimer Scotland, said: ““Alzheimer Scotland is delighted that the STUC and its members, along with Age Scotland, are recognising the importance of dementia as an issue with impact across society. The workplace is one of the most important places for us all to come together to make sure that people living with dementia and those close to them are supported and enabled to continue to be active citizens. This conference is important in demonstrating a shared commitment to people in work who are affected by dementia.”