LRD Booklets June 2019

Workplace action on mental health - a trade union guide

Introduction

Introduction


[page 3]

Mental health and ill health has soared up the news agenda in recent times, but people experiencing mental health problems are still facing numerous difficulties at work. A staggering 300,000 workers with long-term mental health problems are losing their jobs each year, and many more with intermittent problems are struggling in their work.


Union reps and other branch and workplace union activists are in an excellent position to increase awareness of mental health problems in their workplaces, to negotiate good employer policies and procedures in order to improve wellbeing at work, and to support individuals who experience mental health problems.


This booklet focuses on giving practical advice to union representatives on negotiating workplace policies, procedures and practices on mental health. It aims to help reps work with employers to make workplaces supportive for individuals experiencing either long-term or short-term mental health difficulties, and to ensure that mental health problems are not created by work itself. 


There are two broad aspects to mental health policies at the workplace, both of which should be given attention to foster mental wellbeing among staff. 


One is to prevent the workplace itself being a source of poor mental health, which requires a health and safety approach, including risk assessments and “changing the workplace and not the worker”. Chapter 6 provides an introduction to this, but more guidance and information on how unions can tackle and prevent work-related stress is detailed in a separate LRD booklet, Stress and mental health at work — a guide for trade union reps (www.lrdpublications.org.uk/publications.php?pub=BK&iss=1843).


The other, which is the main focus of this booklet, is to ensure support, equality and the removal of disadvantage for those who have pre-existing mental health problems, or who develop them during their employment. 


Workplace action on mental health provides an introduction to mental health and mental ill health, explaining why it is an important workplace issue and the major role that unions can play. It sets out the legal duties on employers in this area and also explains why there is a business case for them to act positively.


It gives union reps guidance on negotiating good workplace policies, giving actual examples from workplaces, and also ways to ensure policies are implemented throughout the organisation, particularly by line managers. It also sets out how other employment policies and procedures in the organisation might need to be adjusted to ensure they do not discriminate and are supportive to staff experiencing mental health problems. Chapter 9 gives further advice on negotiating support for individuals in the form of adjustments or specialist help. A concluding section lists key organisations and publications for further information.