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Call for better leadership to protect wellbeing

19 March 2023

IOSH HAS called for a coordinated focus on preventing and mitigating mental health issues in workplaces.

Responding to a European Commission consultation, the Institution said there needs to be a focus on promoting wellbeing through more effective leadership and governance frameworks for mental health in the workplace. This, IOSH says, should prioritise the implementation of strategies for promotion and prevention.

IOSH has also called on the Commission to “step up support for governments, workplaces and communities to help people with mental health conditions to participate in and thrive at work”.

While recognising the significant impact that issues such as bullying, sexual harassment and occupational violence can have on workers’ wellbeing, IOSH highlighted that “more subtle elements of work can chip away at wellbeing over time”.

Included in this is poor leadership support, interpersonal conflict and job insecurity. The Institution says tackling these risks is of “utmost importance” due to the impact they can have.

The role of OSH professionals

The consultation focused on the role of regulators in promoting good mental health and preventing mental health problems.

In its response, IOSH highlighted that it advocates a prevention-first approach, adding that OSH professionals have a key role to play.

It says: “IOSH believes that occupational safety and health professionals can be fundamental to modern businesses and play a key role in the identification of health hazards, which includes, psychosocial hazards, supporting good risk management and the prevention and mitigation of occupational risks that impact health, including mental health.

“They drive business processes and culture to create a sustainable, healthy, safe and productive workforce. They are also pivotal in creating better and more aligned workplace policies and arrangements that incorporate different aspects of mental health and wellbeing, that are holistic, worker-centred and put the job design, working conditions and the work environment at the forefront.”

The response goes on to say that any guidelines must reinforce the business case for employers seeking assistance and advice from specialist such as OSH professionals.

Smaller firms and healthcare

It is crucial, IOSH says, that a more tailored approach is used for micro, small and medium-sized businesses as other challenges often interfere with how they manage mental health and wellbeing risks.

The response adds: “The fact that many of these businesses have no dedicated human resource management or occupational health and safety function, or occupational health service function, impacts on their ability to promote positive mental health and take preventative action.”

Healthcare is one area where there are significant risks, IOSH adds, recommending “investment to ensure adequate staffing levels, supervision, mentoring, training, personal protective equipment and mental health support”.

Driving worker engagement, productivity and sustainability

IOSH’s response concludes by acknowledging that the impact of mental ill health in the workplace has never been more visible.

Calling for a coordinated response, it adds: “Factors such as the increased attention from policymakers and employers, the influx of greater levels of awareness in society and from workers, and other socio-economic issues can constitute a driving force for improved worker engagement, enhanced productivity, and organisational sustainability.”

Find out more

You can read IOSH’s full response on our website here.