NEWS: Young workers call for Mental Health at Work Act

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Young GMB members have urged the government to tackle the ‘scourge’ of workplace mental ill health, after a new report found young people are most at risk to anxiety and other conditions.

The report, published by Business in the Community, found that 37% of those aged 18 to 29 have been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition, compared to 29% of employees in their 50s.

However, less than half (44%) feel comfortable talking about mental health at work, compared to 57% of their older colleagues, it said.

Beccie Ions, of GMB Young Workers, commented: “This report reveals the scourge of workplace mental health issues, particularly among young people.

“Young people are working in uncertain times with insecure contracts and lower pay, putting enormous strain on our mental health.

“Employers need to do more, but ultimately it is down to the government to ensure they do.

“We are calling on the government to introduce a Mental Health at Work Act, which would work towards ensuring parity of esteem between mental and physical health,” she said.

Young people are particularly vulnerable to stress and anxiety about work, said the BITC study. Photograph: iStock

BITC’s Mental Health at Work report, published ahead of World Mental Health day on 10 October, said employers should give more mental health support for vulnerable groups.

“Our survey shows that young people and black, asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) employees are at a particular disadvantage at work. Employers should address barriers that exist in their own organisations.”

It said: “Mistakes happen, especially when employees are new or inexperienced. Give honest and objective feedback, and help employees learn from their mistakes.”

The survey, which went out to 3,036 UK employees, came as new research from the UK Council for Psychotherapy found mental health at “crisis” levels.

In analysis of 400,000 workers, UKCP found anxiety and depression has trebled - increased by 29.7 per cent - since 2013.

Chief executive Professor Sarah Niblock said, “It is extremely worrying. Ministers must realise that the crisis is here, and the crisis is now.”

Barbara Keeley MP, Labour’s shadow cabinet minister for mental health and social care, commented: “These alarming figures should be a wake-up call for a Tory Government which is complacent about mental health.

“Anxiety and depression among workers has risen steeply under the Tories, yet for all their warm words they have still not delivered a plan to deal with mental ill health in the workplace.”

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled plans to ‘transform the way we deal with mental illness at work and in our communities.’

May commissioned an independent review of companies’ work to support mental health. It is being led by Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind and Lord Dennis Stevenson, campaigner for greater understanding of mental illness.

It is expected to involve practical help including best practice and learning from ‘trailblazer employers’. It will review recommendations around discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of mental health. Findings are expected to be announced next week.

BITC Mental Health at Work Report here 


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