One in four people will experience mental health problems every year.
So in every workplace, every union and every branch you will know someone who has been affected by mental health issues.
But we also know that only one in four people with a mental illness or phobia lasting for 12 months or more are in work.
Clearly not enough is being done by employers to ensure people are able to get and stay in work, or to make sure workplaces are positive places for mental health and wellbeing.
Here are 5 actions that can improve mental health in your workplace – and some resources the TUC has developed to support unions and union reps to make these changes.
1. Check if your employer has a specific mental health policy
The policy should include a definition of mental ill health, how mental health links to other workplace policies, promotion of good mental health, the role of line managers and a section on recruitment. It could also cover what training will be provided to managers on mental health. TUC Education has put together an eNote* and workbook for union reps on mental health, which explain how to negotiate for a workplace policy and what should be included in it. Union reps can also sign up to mental health awareness classroom courses to practice negotiation role plays.
2. Ensure that employers are providing reasonable adjustments
Union reps should ensure that employers are providing reasonable adjustments to people with mental health problems to eliminate any workplace barriers. These could include counselling or mentoring and flexible working. The TUC and GMB have developed a reasonable adjustment passport – a live record of adjustments agreed between a worker and their manager to support them at work because of a health condition, impairment or disability. The passport supports members and their reps to work with employers to ensure that up-to-date, appropriate, practical and correct reasonable adjustments are in place.
3. Talk to each other
Talking about feelings and experiences can help people maintain their mental health. Union reps can provide support to people with mental health issues and signpost members to local mental health support services. TUC Education is running a webinar on the 12th June with Mental Health Foundation, the UK’s leading prevention focused mental health charity. In the webinar we will talk about noticing distress and reaching out appropriately to somebody who isn’t coping. Sign up here.
4. Raise awareness in your workplace and community
There is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health issues. Unions and union reps can run campaigns to increase awareness about mental health and its causes, dispel myths and encourage people to talk openly about their experiences. Campaigns should include colleagues with mental health problems and provide examples of good practice.
5. Work with your employer to reduce stress at work
Whilst stress is not a recognised mental health condition, work-related stress can lead people to develop anxiety, depression or generalised anxiety disorder. In 2016/17 there were over 12 million working days lost due to stress, depression and anxiety. Trade unions should work with employers to take a preventative approach to mental health by reducing stress. This could include looking at workloads, bullying, harassment and working hours.
With these actions trade unions can help everyone to thrive at work.
* eNotes are short, interactive, online resources to help you keep up to date on key workplace issues. On average, they take about 20 minutes to complete.