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Labour conference 2021: Usdaw calls for action to tackle mental health problems in the workplace

Date: 28 September 2021 Retail trade union Usdaw has today highlighted the mental health problems that too many low-paid key workers face, which has been made much worse during the pandemic.
Usdaw submitted a motion to the annual Labour conference in Brighton, calling on the Party to:
  • Strengthen the Equality Act and improve enforcement, focussing on reasonable adjustments.
  • Introduce mandatory disability pay gap reporting.
  • Repeal anti-union laws and strengthen collective bargaining rights.
  • Support employers by developing a statutory mental health at work plan, including core standards on training, awareness raising and decent work. 
Addressing delegates Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary said: “One in four people experience a mental health problem each year. Mental health problems can affect anyone, but where we work and the jobs we do have a huge impact on our wellbeing. Poor work is not just contributing to stress, anxiety and depression – it’s actually causing it. Growing numbers of workers are struggling under the financial stress caused by poverty pay, a lack of control over working hours and income, unrealistic performance targets and the fear of being penalised if they raise concerns.
 
“On top of this existing crisis, the pandemic has created a mental health emergency and while we may all be living through the same storm, we are not in the same boat. Low paid workers have again been at the sharp end - both in terms of health and economic impacts. Low paid workers were more likely to be furloughed on less than usual pay. They were more likely to have their hours cut and they were more likely to find their jobs at risk. 
 
“When the Covid crisis hit, the whole country saw what we in Usdaw have always known. That our members, working in shops, distribution and food manufacturing, are essential workers. While the message was to stay at home, these key workers, like so many others, went out to work on the front line, doing vital work, but often feeling totally undervalued.
 
“Anxiety about exposure to the virus, the struggle of balancing work with caring responsibilities and a huge increase in customer abuse all take a toll on our members' mental health at work. And let me say this too – the empty shelves, the empty petrol pumps that we’ve seen this week; they are entirely the fault of the Tory Government and their complete failure to get a grip on supply issues. But who takes the brunt of people’s frustrations? It’s not Boris Johnson. It’s over-stretched, underpaid, exhausted workers.
 
“Unions have been vital in getting safety measures into workplaces. Union reps have worked tirelessly to support members through this crisis, but vulnerable workers in unorganised workplaces, workers on the fringes of the labour market, are less able to ask for help when they need it. 
 
“Over the past decade we have seen the conversation shift around mental health and workplace health and wellbeing initiatives are to be welcomed. But they are not enough – they are nowhere near enough. Too many workers with mental health problems are missing out on support at work. Reasonable adjustment rights need to be strengthened, to help people to stay in work, and to get on at work.
 
“As the Party of working people, we must recognise that mental health is a workplace issue. A Labour Government must call employers to account for poor working practices and a Labour Government must guarantee stronger collective bargaining rights for unions to negotiate for better pay, and equality at work.”
 
Notes for editors:
 
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 380,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades.
 
For further information please contact Usdaw’s Media Officer, David Williams on: 0161 249 2469, 07798 696 603 or by e-mail to [email protected]
 
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers