Trade unions and mental health: a resource list

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Why this resource?

Over recent years, there has been growing recognition of the extent of mental health issues in the workplace and outside. Trade unions are aware that stigma based on ignorance and prejudice - from employers and from fellow workers - is probably the most significant barrier faced by people with mental health problems, and also the most difficult to challenge. Successive governments have promised to take effective action but today, with cuts to services and resources everywhere (themselves a cause of increased mental health issues), these promises remain unfulfilled. People with mental health issues continue to have one of the lowest employment rates of any group of disabled people.

Unions can take make a significant difference by

Ensuring they can negotiate effective policies with the employer;

Ensuring they can represent members with mental health problems effectively; and

Helping inform and educate their members and representatives to understand the issues.

This resource list contains, firstly, recommended publications from the trade union movement, secondly advice specifically aimed at employers, and thirdly more general materials of use to individuals. The TUC encourages unions to establish a link with national campaigns working on mental health, and in particular with MIND, which has an employment campaign and can be asked to deliver training or briefings.

Please send any additions or amendments to this list to Peter Purton, ppurton@tuc.org.uk.

Trade Union guidance and information

The following publications are available free to all trade unionists:

The TUC recommends that unions obtain copies of the guidance document written for the TUC by Michelle Valentine working with a number of expert organisations and with the backing of the (then) Disability Right s Commission (now part of the Equality & Human Rights Commission) -

Representing and supporting members with mental health problems at work: guidance for trade union representatives TUC, May 2008.

This guidance is available free to trade unions. Hard copies can be ordered from the TUC Publications shop. You can also download a free PDF version of the guidance from the TUC disability issues page.

A growing number of unions are now producing their own guidance and information. Unite the union published a pack,

Organising and campaigning on stress and mental health at work

in May 2011. This may also be downloaded freely from the resources pages of their website, www.unitetheunion.org.

Other unions also produce materials and union members should always check first with their organisation.

A number of unions have resources designed to tackle stress at work as an issue of health and safety. These materials will also be of value in many cases because stress can easily become a mental health issue if not dealt with effectively.

Also very useful is:

The Labour Research Department published (May 2011)

Stress and mental health at work - a guide for union reps

This can be ordered from www.lrdpublications.org.uk for £6 (discounts for bulk, and affiliates of LRD).

Advice and training for employers

An employer looking for advice in dealing with mental health may prefer to rely on guidance written from their own perspective. In that case, negotiators can draw their attention to the large catalogue of publications produced by the Employers Forum on Disability. The EFD publishes advice for employers on reasonable adjustments for employees with mental health problems. Go to their website, www.efd.org.uk.

The Health and Safety Executive published in 2007 advice that will be of use to employers and to worker representatives:

Managing the causes of work-related stress.

This booklet costs £10.95 or can be downloaded free from their website, at www.hse.gov.uk/publications/books/hsg218.htm.

Expert training for employers is provided by ACAS, working with Mindful Employer. They run regular courses across the country, and also provide tailored in-house training. Details can be found on their website, www.acas.org.uk, or by calling 08457 383736.

Advice for individuals

The UK's leading mental health charity, MIND, published an enormous range of advice on every aspect of mental health. Their advice for individuals at the workplace,

MIND guide to surviving working life

can be downloaded free from www.mind.org.uk/shop/booklets.

Working with MIND

MIND has been running a campaign focussed on workplace issues for several years and the TUC is keen to encourage trade unions to make use of this valuable resource to deepen awareness of the issue amongst officers and members.

The MIND information line is available on 0300 123 3393 or by email info@mind.org.uk.

The workplace campaign with a large number of materials and links can be found at www.mind.org.uk/employment.

Equality and Employment Rights Department,

TUC, updated October 2012.

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