Today, the Council approved the first-ever set of conclusions on the interconnection between mental health and employment, with a focus on precarious work.

“Combatting precariousness is one of the best antidotes for the prevention of psychosocial risks at work. These conclusions mark a significant step towards recognising the impact of mental health and actively promoting workers’ psychological well-being.” stated Yolanda Díaz Perez, Spain’s acting Minister for Work and Social Economy

In 2022, 27% of the workers in the European Union suffered from stress, depression and anxiety. Exposure to certain risk factors related to stress and mental disorders has further increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health and work are closely interconnected. Mental health is an important issue for work ability and productivity, and, conversely, psychosocial risks at work can be detrimental to mental health. In particular, precarious work, including poorly paid and unprotected jobs, may lead to disorders such as anxiety and depression.

The importance of this development cannot be overstated, as statistics from 2022 reveal that a staggering 27% of workers in the European Union suffered from stress, depression, and anxiety. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the exposure to risk factors related to stress and mental disorders, making it imperative to address mental health concerns within the context of employment.

The connection between mental health and work is undeniable. Mental health significantly influences work ability and productivity, and conversely, psychosocial risks at work can have a detrimental impact on an individual’s mental health. Precarious work, characterized by poorly paid and unprotected jobs, is particularly concerning in this regard, as it has been linked to disorders such as anxiety and depression.

With these issues in mind, the Council has called upon member states to take a series of actions aimed at mitigating psychosocial risks at work:

  • Promoting Quality Employment Policies: Member states are encouraged to adopt and promote quality employment policies to combat precariousness, thus improving working conditions and mental well-being.
  • Strengthening Mental Health Safeguards: Public systems that safeguard mental health at work are to be strengthened, ensuring that workers have access to the necessary support and resources.
  • Fostering Research: Research on mental health at work is deemed essential to better understand and address the issue. Member states are urged to support research initiatives in this area.
  • Supporting Workers with Mental Health Issues: Member states are encouraged to support the recruitment or reintegration of workers who may be dealing with mental health challenges, ensuring they are not unfairly excluded from the workforce.
  • Preventing Psychosocial Risks in SMEs: Special attention is given to supporting self-employed individuals and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in preventing psychosocial risks at work.

The European Commission is also urged to take significant steps, including:

  • Addressing Psychosocial Risks: The Commission is called upon to consider an adequate policy for addressing psychosocial risks at work, emphasizing the importance of proactive measures.
  • Right to Disconnect: The concept of the “right to disconnect” is suggested as a valuable prevention measure to protect the mental well-being of workers.
  • Coordination of National Initiatives: The Commission is encouraged to foster coordination among national initiatives aimed at managing psychosocial risks at work.

Additionally, social partners are urged to engage in social dialogue to improve working conditions and raise awareness about psychological well-being in the workplace.

Mental health is increasingly becoming a global concern, and the European Union is taking significant strides to address it. This effort aligns with the UN Agenda 2030’s sustainable development goals, which include protecting labor rights and promoting safe and secure working environments for all workers.

In a testament to the importance of this issue, on June 7, 2023, the European Commission adopted a comprehensive approach to mental health, emphasizing the multidisciplinary priority of strengthening mental health. As the Spanish presidency continues to champion this cause, the EU is committed to creating safer, healthier, and more supportive work environments for all its citizens.

In conclusion, precarious employment, characterized by instability, low wages, and limited job security, takes a significant toll on mental health. It often leads to chronic anxiety, stress, depression, low self-esteem, and strained relationships due to financial instability and isolation. Eurodiaconia, calls for improved labour protections, accessible mental health services, skills development opportunities, social dialogue, and increased awareness to address the mental health challenges associated with precarious work.

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