Workers are suffering a mental health ‘epidemic’, a UK and Ireland-wide survey of Unite workplace representatives has revealed.
Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, said there is a ‘clear link’ between the increase in stress brought on by the pandemic and called on employers to help prevent the crisis being carried forward as the country opens up.
The health and safety-focused survey of 1,400 Unite reps, from across all sectors of the economy, found that 83 per cent are dealing with an increase in members reporting mental health-related problems.
Mental health issues also came top of workers’ concerns during a similar survey last year. However, there has been a huge 18-point increase from the 65 per cent reported in 2020.
The survey also found that regulators and health authorities carrying out workplace visits are not routinely speaking to union reps. These organisations include the Health and Safety Executive, local authorities, Public Health England/Wales and others.
Only a third of respondents whose workplaces had been visited reported that inspectors had spoken to reps during the visit, despite it being vital to gaining an accurate picture of health and safety on site.
Unite called the finding ‘alarming’ as it had previously raised the ‘potentially dangerous’ issue with regulators, who all insisted that speaking to reps during visits is a matter of course.
The union said regulators need to begin publishing records on whether workplace reps have been spoken to, something they are not currently required to do.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “This survey shows there is an epidemic of mental health issues being suffered by workers across all sectors of the economy.
“April is Stress Awareness Month and employers need to be aware that there is a clear link between the explosion in mental ill-health and the stressors of the pandemic.
“As the country and the economy come out of the coronavirus freeze, the after effects of the pandemic are still going to be felt, including their impact on people’s mental health.
“During the week of International Workers’ Memorial Day, we should remember that many workers not only paid a physical price during the fight against Covid-19, but a psychological one too.
“Employers need to be aware of this and in partnership with trade unions implement mental health friendly policies to help prevent the psychological toll of the pandemic being carried forward longer than it needs to be.
“The survey also revealed a worrying trend of regulators not speaking to union reps during workplace safety inspections. This means regulators are not getting a full and accurate picture of the environments they are visiting, which is potentially dangerous.
“Unite has raised this issue before with all the relevant regulators and health authorities, but it is clear it is not being addressed. Direction requiring them to publish records of speaking to reps during visits is now needed.”
The survey’s full findings are available here.