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Union calls on members to use safety legislation to tackle mental health issues

Adam Christies with the HSE toolkit  -  © nuj

16 May 2019

The NUJ’s health and safety committee is calling on the union’s members and reps to mark Mental Health Awareness Week by sending their managers emails with links to a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) resource.

In its guide, Talking Toolkit: preventing work-related stress, published late last year, the HSE takes managers through steps they should take to assess the risk of stress to their staff. The NUJ’s health and safety committee said this week was an opportunity for reps to exercise their right to carry out workplace inspections, looking for potential “stressors”.

They must notify employers that they intend to carry out an inspection, and employers can be present. The Toolkit identifies six key factors, or stressors, which can potentially affect the mental health of people working for their organisation: demands, control, support, relationships, roles and change.

Adam Christie, NUJ health and safety committee chair, said:

“For bosses, this document is a huge help by telling them what they should be looking for and how they should be preventing stress from injuring people and their organisations.  However, it’s also a challenge; if they don't have the reasonable foresight to appreciate the implications of not following HSE guidance, they could face legal consequences.”

Ann Galpin, chair of the NUJ’s Disabled Members’ Council said:

“Work-related stress can have devastating and long-lasting consequences on individuals and their families. Many employers have cut staff posts in recent years, increasing the workload on ever-shrinking staff teams. Journalists, photographers and camera teams may also be subject to viewing and creating content about traumatic events, which can be a contributor to post traumatic stress disorder. Employers should take every measure possible to reduce sources of mental distress in the workplace; and trade unions can support them to do so.”

Marc Wadsworth, chair of Black Members’ Council said:

"African-Caribbean people are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness and admitted to hospital than any other racial group in the UK. They are also more likely to disengage from mainstream mental health services, leading to social exclusion and a deterioration in their condition. The leading contributors to this are poverty and racism, according to experts. Prejudice and unfair treatment in the workplace can be devastating. Greater use of health and safety laws to tackle illness at work is therefore essential.”

Natasha Hirst, chair of the NUJ’s Equalities Council said:

“Bullying and harassment in the workplace have been identified by our members as a source of concern and Mental Health Awareness Week is a great time to remind employers to take action.”  Guides and advice can be found on the NUJ’s Creating without Conflict campaign page.  

Talking Toolkit: preventing work-related stress
Other HSE resources on work-related stress

  • According to the HSE, in 2017/18, work-related stress accounts for more than half (57 per cent) of all working days lost to ill health, with more than 600,000 workers reporting suffering from stress, depression or anxiety, caused or made worse by work.
  • The HSE guidance suggests the minimum reasonable precautions they, as the law enforcement agency, think every employer should have in place.
  • The obligations on employers cover everyone working for an organisation including commissioned or contracted freelances.

Not enough industry bosses are taking work-related stress seriously, article by Phil Morcom, chair of the NUJ Public Relations and Communications Council, in PR Week.

TUC webinar on mental health: taking place on Wednesday 12 June from 14.00 to 15.00, this webinar gives practical tips and advice from Chris O’Sullivan, head of workplace mental health at the Mental Health Foundatio

Other TUC resources for union reps on mental health

Tags: , Mental Health Awareness Week, mental health, stress, bullying, health and safety, health and safety executive, hse, work-related stress, harassment, creating without conflict, Disabled Members’ Council, Black Members’ Council, Equalities Council, Public Relations and Communications Council