TUC calls for better support for hundreds of thousands of workers with mental health problems

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date: 15 May 2008

embargo: 00.01hrs Friday 16 May 2008

The TUC today (Friday) is publishing new guidance to help employers and unions support people with mental health problems at work, in advance of the TUC's annual disability conference next week (21 and 22 May).

Every organisation in Britain is affected by mental distress and ill health in the workplace, and at any given time one in six workers will experience depression, anxiety, or stress-related problems. Simple steps - including the prevention and early identification of mental health problems - can promote the mental well-being of staff and help employers save money by cutting down on days lost to sick leave.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Hundreds and thousands of people at work face ignorance, prejudice and stigma because of mental health problems. Even more - who are both able and willing to work - cannot get a job because of discrimination by employers, even though this is illegal under the Disability Discrimination Act.

'This report provides union reps with the information they need to help people with mental health problems keep their jobs and develop their careers. It will help unions work out how to make adjustments in the workplace for people with these health problems, and help employers keep their valuable and skilled staff.'

The report, produced with Disability Forward Ltd, recommends that unions work with employers to encourage job applications from people with mental health issues and that they urge individuals to disclose any mental health problems they may have.

Other things unions can do to ensure workplaces are supportive include:

  • Ensuring that as many reps as possible have had training on mental health at work.
  • Training mental health champions, who have a more thorough understanding of mental health problems and know about how people can be better supported in the working environment.
  • Networking with other unions to share knowledge and good practice.
  • Reviewing policies and procedures to ensure they are not discriminating against members with mental health problems.
  • Supporting employers to set up internal or external support meetings with people with mental health problems so that concerns and recommendations can be reported to managers.
  • Encouraging employers to set up a formal Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), where individuals can receive counselling and advice.
  • The report - Representing and supporting members with mental health problems at work - can be downloaded from http://www.tuc.org.uk/extras/mentalhealth.pdf

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- The TUC Disability Conference takes place from Wednesday 21 May to Thursday 22 May at Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS.

- Speakers include: Roger Berry MP; Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Trevor Phillips; Disability Benefits Consortium representative Sue Christoforou; Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Communications and Diversity Manager, Liz Crossley; NUJ representative, Stephen Brookes; and Disability Forward Limited Director, Michelle Valentine.

- The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health states: 'At any one time one worker in six will be experiencing depression, anxiety or problems relating to stress' (Mental Health at Work: Developing the business case).

- For more information on the Disability Discrimination Act please visit www.tuc.org.uk

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- Register for the TUC's press extranet: a service exclusive to journalists wanting to access pre-embargo releases and reports from the TUC. Visit www.tuc.org.uk/pressextranet

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: media@tuc.org.uk
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Elly Brenchley T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: ebrenchley@tuc.org.uk

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