A European Directive

No legislation means a missed opportunity to get employers to act

Even though legislation is a strong driving force for employers to assume their responsibility for occupational health and safety, there is very little legislation which addresses psychosocial risks directly and only in a few member states. On the EU level there is no dedicated legislation, and in the Framework Directive on Occupational Safety and Health there is only one somewhat clear reference to work organisation.

A European Directive on work-related psychosocial risks should include the following five key elements:

  1. The participation of workers and workers representatives in the conception and implementation of measures and continuous monitoring to prevent from work related risks. For that there is a need to establish dedicated bodies at the workplace where they do not exist but also to strengthen the prerogatives of the existing health and safety committees by giving them rights to expertise, creating a sustainable workforce. These joint activities should not be an alternative to union rights to undertake investigations and training of their own.
  2. Clarification on the obligation for employers to systematically assess and mitigate psychosocial risk factors to limit the exposure to the risk for all workers by putting in place preventive measures, while simultaneously working on work organisation. Employers must pay special attention to workers in situation of vulnerability, in particular those with disabilities and their colleagues, focusing on the provision of additional mitigation measures should they be required. For example: putting in place appropriate measures to facilitate the return to work after workers absence.
  3. Obligation for employers to set social targets and objectives to reduce work-related stress in dialogue with employees (worker representatives/worker health & safety representatives). In providing objectives to tackle work-related stress, companies can accurately evaluate success and failure. Evaluations must be conducted at company, national and European level to gauge progress. Central to the success of this objective will be the definition of indicators to measure and evaluate the legislative actions at the workplace and therefore improving working conditions. These indicators will allow employees, employers and independent third parties to evaluate the successful implementation of social targets in the workplace.
  4. Access to training must be granted to all workers, with managerial staff receiving specialised training to help prevent psychosocial risks at work. Access to training must be granted to all workers, with managerial staff receiving specialised training to help in work-related psychosocial risks. Trade Unions must play a central role in the design and implementation of both trainings and best practices, with social partners also bearing a responsibility for the success of trainings.
  5. A directive must guarantee no repercussions for employees who raise concerns regarding psychosocial risks in the workplace. The success of implementation will require means for a better functioning and efficiency of the labour inspectorates, including further funding and training to ensure inspectorates can adequately protect employees.