Mental health: Name and shame employers but also model good practice

John Nisbet
John Nisbet

#stuc2018 The STUC pledged support today for trade union campaigns which champion mental health services for both adults and children in the workplace and communities.

The effect of workload must be addressed, with a NASUWT survey revealing that workload is the top concern for teachers, with many reporting that the pressures are resulting in physical and mental ill health, stress and anxiety.

Supporting the motion, UNISON’s John Nisbet told delegates that the Scottish Government’s mental health strategy “must treat mental health as a serious issue of occupational health.”

Mental health is one of the biggest issues in the workplace, causing over 70 million working days to be lost each year and costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year. 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem lose their jobs each year in the UK.

John said: “Last year, in Scotland, over eight hundred and seventy thousand people were prescribed antidepressants, getting on for one in five of the adult population. This reaches into every workplace.

“This isn’t about individuals with a health problem. It is an epidemic. And as with other epidemics – this one needs a collective response.”

He called for a concerted effort by government, but also by trade unions. For example, by getting the issue acknowledged by employers, ensuring that they fulfil what are their statutory requirements to provide reasonable adjustments for workers with Mental Health issues.

“That’s not rocket science – it’s medical science”, said John. “If adjustments are made, people will be able to stay at work. Sometimes this in itself can be part of a process of recovery.

“We should be aiming to stop the use of absence management policies as a stick to beat people with when they are already struggling.

“As the Composite makes clear, this requires a two stranded approach – on the one hand, naming, shaming, and resisting employers who are targeting workers with mental health problems. But also to develop and promote models of good practice.”

The STUC will campaign on an eight-point plan to raise awareness of the impact of workload pressures on the mental health and well-being workers, publicise health and safety legislation, including risk assessments that should be conducted when an employee presents with a work-related illness, develop a model of good practice for sickness absence management procedures, which support workers and l name and shame employers who adopt a punitive approach to sickness absence management.

It will also work with the Scottish Government on their Mental Health Strategy, to transform mental health in Scotland over the next 10 years, produce and implement a mental health at work plan for employers and call on the Health and Safety Executive to conduct mental health risk assessments in workplaces across Scotland.

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