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Wales TUC delegates unanimously back Usdaw’s call for action on mental health

Date: 21 May 2014 TUC delegates, meeting in Llandudno, today unanimously backed Usdaw’s call for workers with mental health issues to have better protection and reps given more support in advising and representing workers struggling with mental health problems.

Speaking to the Conference, Nick Ireland – Usdaw’s Divisional Officer for South Wales said: ‘It is no surprise that mental health and work related stress problems are on the increase. Times are tough and in the current economic climate many workers are taking time off work due to stress, depression or anxiety. These illnesses are often invisible and rarely talked about.

‘Research by the mental health charity Mind Cymru has shown that although one in five workers has taken a day off sick for stress. 90% of these workers gave their employer a different reason for their absence.

‘There is no doubt that a culture of fear and silence exists when it comes to mental health issues. That’s why Usdaw is campaigning to raise awareness in the workplace.

‘For so many people actually talking to someone is the first step towards their recovery and sometimes that person is their union rep. So it’s absolutely right that the Trade Union movement leads the way in breaking down these barriers, because Union reps can really make a difference.

‘Employers have a responsibility, legally and morally, to identify the risks, take action and ensure that workers are not discriminated against because of a mental health condition. There is a strong economic argument for creating a positive working culture, which promotes mental well-being. It’s estimated that mental health absence and related reduced productivity costs the Welsh economy £1.2 billion every year.

‘There needs to be better support and resources for employers to help them deal with these complex issues. Work is such a big part of people’s lives. So the Welsh Government should sharpen its focus on workplaces as part of the wider mental health strategy, leading to a culture where people are supported at work and employers understand that mental wellbeing is as important as physical wellbeing.

‘More than anything, we must remove the stigma around mental health problems. We can only do this by working together to raise awareness, so that people no longer suffer in silence.’

Notes for editors:

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with over 427,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 17% in the last five years and by nearly a third in the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the Union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

For Usdaw press releases visit: www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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