Our Position

EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work (2021-2027)

The European Commission has published a roadmap on a new EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work (2021-2027) which has been open for feedback. Eurocadres has sent in a feedback contribution and is signatory of a second contribution as part of European Mental Health Alliance – Employment & Work.

Eurocadres' feedback contribution

Eurocadres welcomes the initiative of the European Commission to work towards a new EU OSH Strategic Framework but finds that the Roadmap published is lacking greatly as regards references to work organisation, and combatting psychosocial risks, violence and harassment which must take a central place in the upcoming strategy.

  • As much as 60% of all lost working days can be attributed to work-related stress and psychosocial risks.
  • 79% of managers express concern about work-related stress.
  • More than half of all workers, 51%, in the EU report that work-related stress is common in their workplace.
  • In Europe, only the cost of depression due to work is estimated at 617 billion euros per year.

Already well before the pandemic Europe was in the midst of a stress epidemic and COVID-19 has only contributed to worsening the mental health situation. Too little is done in European workplaces to improve the situation.

The Roadmap points to 23% of all establishments in the EU-28 not carrying out assessments. In COM(2004) 62 final the Commission pointed out that “concerning the practical implementation of the provisions related to the risk assessment […] There is hardly any consideration of psychosocial risk factors and work organisational factors.” (p. 16). Little points to any improvement of the situation since then.

For managers, our members, the stress situation is especially dire, in particular taking into account that managers are in most cases the ones supposed to be carrying out the risk management.

  • 42% of managers find it more difficult to tackle psychosocial risks than other OSH issues.
  • 61% of female managers have sleep problems.
  • 20% of all managers experience anxiety – the highest share of all occupations.
  • Managers experience the highest level of work-life balance conflicts.
  • Managers and professionals also have the highest work intensity and longest working days.

Social partners have assumed the responsibility to address the issue. The autonomous framework agreement on work-related stress from 2004 has however not managed to improve the situation in any other way than increasing the awareness about stress and psychosocial risks.

Throughout the past decades we have seen numerous campaigns, guidelines, tools and sharing of best practices on the topic, e.g. by EU-OSHA. The Commission has repeatedly clarified that psychosocial risks fall under the responsibilities of employers to assess and mitigate and are no different to physical risks. The situation has not improved, instead we see a rise in mental ill health, accelerated during the pandemic. The workplace can of course not provide all solutions to the mental health crisis. Being such a central part of our lives, it must however be part of the solution, instead of being part of the problem.

89% of employers state that complying with the legislation is the main reason why they manage occupational health and safety. The main reason for addressing health and safety in establishments. Legislation is an immensely important driver in OSH. And yet, only a few member states have clear legislation about psychosocial risks.

It is therefore time to follow the development of a few member states (e.g. Belgium, Denmark, Sweden) where dedicated regulation on work organisation and psychosocial risks have been developed. A key component of the work of the Commission in the field of occupational health & safety at work the next few years should be to tackle the stress epidemic by proposing a dedicated directive which addresses psychosocial risks, violence and harassment and improves work organisation.

As part of the European Mental Health Alliance – Work & Employment, we also refer to our joint Alliance contribution (Ref.F1290783, sent in by EuroHealthNet).

All statistics sources available at https://endstress.eu/sources/

Eurocadres is one of the three recognized cross-sectoral social partners on the EU level representing employees and is the initiator of www.EndStress.EU jointly with the ETUC.