Dave Joyce, CWU National Health, Safety & Environment Officer has written to all CWU Branches (LTB495/21) advising of a new ‘Working Minds’ work-related stress campaign from the HSE. The campaign has been determined by the Government's calling for a culture change across Britain’s workplaces where recognising and responding to the signs of stress becomes as routine as managing workplace safety.
However, some USRs and Trade Unionists are critical of the Government's 'concern' being based on the need for working people to be able to cope with workplace stress, in order to maintain work output; as opposed to ensuring employers design workplace stress out of their work procedures and provide good work-life balance, put employees in more control of their workloads and job criteria; and provide appropriate and timely occupational health services.
Key to this aspect of working life, should be positive and supportive mental health support services and the cessation of using discipline procedures and methods of 'managing staff out of the business'. This of course has been one of the methods used by some CWU member's employees: EE, BT, and Royal Mail.
The problem is exacerbated by the idea being pushed by the NHS and other Government Departments, that behavioural change is the answer to work-related bad health, the nation's health, and that ultimately it is the working persons responsibility to ensure their own health, whether it be physical or that of mental health.
This of course was the theme of the Health and Social Care Secretary Javid, in his speech to the Tory Conference in September this year.
Dave's Letter To Branches provides the details of the HSE initiative:
Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety, is committed to improving the health of workers.
The HSE state that work-related stress is now the number one cause of employee sickness absence, with major factors causing work-related stress including workload pressures - tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support.
The HSE add that employers, particularly smaller ones, are not aware of their legal duties or how to spot the signs of stress. ‘Working Minds’ aims to raise awareness about how to recognise and respond to the signs of stress and reminds employers of their legal duty to protect workers and support good mental health to help people to stay well.
Working with partner organisations, including leading mental health charities ‘MIND’ and ‘Mates in Mind’ plus ‘ACAS’ and ‘Lifelines Scotland’, HSE will provide employers, particularly small businesses with relevant information and practical tools. HSE stated in their launch that; ‘Work-related stress and poor mental health should be treated with the same significance as risks of poor physical health and injury. In terms of the affect it has on workers, significant and long-term stress can limit performance and impact personal lives. No worker should suffer in silence and if we don’t act now to improve workers’ mental health, this could evolve into a health and safety crisis.’
The pandemic has highlighted the need to protect the health of employees who have faced unprecedented challenges and HSE want to make sure good mental health is central to Government plans to re-build the economy. Even before the pandemic took hold, it was estimated that mental health issues cost UK employers up to £45 billion a year.
MIND stated that ‘the charity were pleased to be supporting HSE’s Working Minds campaign which aims to support businesses to promote good mental health among their workforce and MIND has long been working with employers of different sizes and sectors to help them create mentally healthy workplaces, but this has never been more important.
This campaign couldn’t have come at a better time, given the huge impact the pandemic has had on employers and workers.’ Working Minds is aimed specifically at supporting businesses by providing employers and workers with easy to implement advice, including simple steps to introduce employers to the principles of the stress management standards, that directs employers to Make it Routine by Reaching out, Recognising, Responding and Reflecting.
Whether a small business or a large corporation, the law requires all employers to prevent work related stress to promote, support and sustain good mental health in the workplace. The Working Minds campaign brings together a range of tools and support to help businesses and workers understand the best ways to prevent work related stress and encourage good mental health.
The HSE is inviting business and organisations across the nation to support their campaign and become Working Minds Champions. No matter where you work, employers have a legal duty to identify risks and agree ways to prevent work-related stress and support good mental health. Good work can help promote good mental health but this is not always the case. Anyone can suffer with stress and poor mental health – it affects us all at different times and in different ways. There are things you can do to help look after your mental health.
The important thing is to make talking about how you and your colleagues are feeling, normal. For anyone feeling the signs of stress at work, it’s important to talk to someone, for example a Union Rep or Mental Health & Wellbeing Ambassador or Mental Health First Aider or call the employer’s independent occupational health helpline or the Samaritans 24 hour helpline (116 123) or a GP.
Talk to them as soon as possible and it will give them the chance to help and stop the situation getting worse.
‘Working Minds Matter’ For more about the Working Minds campaign visit the HSE ‘Working Minds Matter’ Website here:
Get Your Mind Plan The NHS has created a simple tool that provides a free plan with tips to help deal with stress and anxiety, improve sleep, boost your mood and feel more in control. Get Your Mind Plan – Every Mind Matters Website is here
Samaritans 24 Hour Helpline
Need support? Call Samaritans 116 123 to speak to a Samaritan. Other Charity Helplines MIND Infoline: 03001233393
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) 0800 58 58 58 (helpline for those who are down or have hit a wall, who need to talk or find information and support). Papyrus - Prevention of Young Suicide - Helpline 0800 0684141 or Text: 07786209697
Step Change – Debt advice service helping get problems back under control. 0800 138 1111
Shout - Text Shout to 85258 - Shout is the UK’s first free 24/7 text service for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere for those struggling to cope and needing help. SOS Silence of Suicide - 0300 1020 505 (midday to midnight daily).