Unions are finding ways of helping prevent mental health problems arising in the workplace

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, Austerity, Health

TUC Congress HouseA new report published by the TUC says workers have been experiencing a significant increase in stress, which in some cases has led to mental ill health, as a result of the impact of austerity on their work and home lives.

Although there is greater public awareness of mental health, the number of workers affected by mental health issues is enormous, says the TUC in Good practice in workplace mental health.

Many employers do not deal with mental health issues and this may lead to many people losing their job, and even worse, failing to find new work as a result of the stigma associated with mental health issues.

Good practice in workplace mental health is based on a seminar held to share good practice examples from unions in different sectors and the experiences of delegates. It focussed on preventing problems arising as well as solving them positively when they did occur.

In one example, Usdaw negotiated with a call centre employer to train workplace representatives, set up mental health first aid, teach members to spot the early signs of a problem, stop it getting worse, help sufferers to recover sooner and reduce the stigma attached to mental health problems.

The report concludes by identifying problems that may need to be addressed in a workplace, and measures that can be taken to make a workplace ‘mentally healthy’, including:

·    training for union representatives and middle managers

·    early referral to Occupational Health

·    recognising gender aspects of mental health

·    recognising the business case for positive mental health

·    conducting stress risk assessments.

TUC Disability policy officer Peter Purton said: “People with mental ill health continue to have amongst the lowest employment rates for disabled people according to the Labour Force Survey. The evidence suggests that mental ill health can be linked to workplace stress, which makes it particularly concerning that recent surveys have reported a rise in the incidence of stress at work.

“But the good news is that trade unions are finding ways to prevent mental health problems arising, or to work with employers to enable a person with a mental health condition to continue in work.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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