Take action to improve job quality
Job quality is multi-dimensional and reflects many areas including pay, work polices, relationships, autonomy, intrinsic quality of work, empowerment and health and wellbeing at work [i]. Research indicates that employment which has poor psychosocial quality is not associated with any better mental health outcomes than being unemployed [ii]. Furthermore, poor quality work can be associated with elevated levels of chronic stress [iii]. Improved job quality can increase worker productivity and the overall performance of an organisation [iv].
The ultimate human cost of poor working conditions is loss of life through suicide. We know that rates of poor mental health and suicide are higher for employees in certain industries though clearly there are several factors which contribute to such trends. For example, suicide rates among men working in construction and decorating are more than 35% more likely to take their own lives, and female nurses are 24% more likely to die by suicide than the national average for women.
Action for all
1. Implement Thriving in Work standards in your workplace
‘Thriving at Work’: The Stevenson/Farmer Review of Mental Health and Employers[v], commissioned by the government reported that the ‘UK faces a significant mental health challenge at work’ including the increased risk of suicide in poor quality work and certain industries. The report details recommendations over many levels, government, education, civil service and the NHS.
The report recommends all employers can and should:
- Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
- Develop mental health awareness among employees
- Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling
- Provide employees with good working conditions
- Promote effective people management
- Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.
For public sector bodies and the 3,500 private sector companies with more than 500 employees, deliver the following mental health enhanced standards which will reach 46% of employees:
- Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting
- Demonstrate accountability
- Improve the disclosure process
- Ensure provision of tailored in-house mental health support and signposting to clinical help
2. Take action to give fair working hours and career development
Too many people are stuck in low-paid, insecure jobs, with little chance of progression and too few hours of work to reach a decent living standard. Workers need more security, better training and opportunities to progress, particularly in part-time jobs.
Alongside committing employees to giving all employee’s the Living Wage employers should also commit to Living Hours[vi] with at least four weeks’ notice of shifts, with guaranteed payment if shifts are cancelled within this notice period. Employers should also produce a right to a contract with living hours: the right to a contract that reflects accurate hours worked, and a guaranteed minimum of 16 hours a week (unless the worker requests otherwise).
Rachel McEwan of SSE PLC said: ‘Paying the real Living Wage is the most important step an employer can take to alleviate in-work poverty. But there is another side of the coin: the number of hours worked and the security of those hours. The amount of pay employees take home can be affected by irregular and unpredictable hours.
‘In the long-run, it is in all our interests that our workplaces and communities are filled with people who are treated with respect and can earn enough for a good life.’
Action for Central Government
1. Legislate to clarify work sickness entitlements
Clearer expectation of employers through legislation is needed and Statutory Sick Pay should be more flexible to better support people with mental health problems to make voluntary phased returns to work where appropriate.
Action for the NHS
1. Ensure mental health provision is responsive to working lives
There is a significant role for the NHS to support workplace mental health by ensuring support is accessible, high quality and fits around work.