Our Position

Resolution: Covid-19 puts the spotlight on mental health at work

Adopted by Eurocadres General Assembly 15 October 2020

Time to End Stress in the EU! 20

It is time for a new EU directive to End Stress at work in the EU

Already before Covid-19, Europe was in a stress epidemic. More than half of all working days lost in the EU[1] were caused by work-related stress. The pandemic has worsened an already alarming mental health situation and made it ever more important to urgently address also the stress epidemic. Now is the time for a new EU directive which addresses psychosocial risks, violence and harassment and improves work organisation.

One of the gravest impacts Covid-19 has had is on the mental health situation. Fear, uncertainty and lack of social contacts is a major contributor to this. But so is the situation in European workplaces. The massive rise of telework adds to the already blurred boundaries between work and free time. For many managers it comes as a sudden new challenge to manage teams not physically present in the workplace. Less social interaction with colleagues seriously contribute to reducing the sense of meaning and purpose at work.

Following the economic impact of Covid-19 there has been many lay-offs and companies and organisations are struggling to relaunch their activities. When moving forward on a road to recovery, this is likely to include both higher workloads and fewer resources. This will put many more workers already suffering from a tough mental health situation at risk.

The pandemic has in particular had a heavy impact on women. The gender-based division of labour contributes to this. For example, 76 %[2] of healthcare workers in the EU are women, which means that a clear majority of frontline healthcare workers are women. The drastic increase of domestic violence in particular affecting women and the double burden of carrying out most of the care and household work at home in different-sex parent households are two additional examples of the asymmetric way the Covid-19 pandemic has hit. With women already before Covid-19 being more often diagnosed with sicknesses related to mental health[3], our call to end stress at work has a clear gender equality objective linked to it.

Eurocadres is today, together with the ETUC, launching the initiative EndStress.EU. We call on the EU Commission to propose a new EU directive to tackle the stress epidemic. Our demand is clear: It is time for a new EU directive which addresses psychosocial risks, violence and harassment and improves work organisation.

[1] P 69 Research on work-related stress’, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2000.
[2] EIGE, European Institute for Gender Equality, Covid-19 and gender equality, Frontline workers. (Accessed 18 Sept 2020)
[3] P 28 Sick pay and sickness benefit schemes in the European Union, EUROPEAN COMMISSION, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Directorate C — Social Affairs, Unit C.2 — Modernisation of social protection systems, 2016