March 2022, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on the European
Parliament's Committee on Employment and Social Affairs discussed a draft
report by the correspondent Maria Walsh (EPP, IE) on mental health in the
digital world of work. The draft contains far-reaching demands on the European
Commission to improve mental health at the workplace - especially against the background of the digital transformation.
COVID-19 pandemic has brought the issue of mental health into even sharper
focus and has once again highlighted new as well as existing problems. However,
the correspondent believes that the magnitude of the problem is underestimated.
The next health crisis will be linked to mental health. The European Commission
is therefore urged to develop an EU mental health strategy.
Right of non-availability
view to the digital transformation, the correspondent underlines the importance
of a right of non-availability. A right to be unavailable is essential to
ensure the psychological well-being of workers. The European Commission is
again called upon to establish legislation with minimum requirements for
working from home. MEPs had previously called for this on several occasions,
for example in their Resolution on the right of non-availability with
recommendations to the European Commission of 21 January 2021.
Commissioner responsible for employment and social rights, Nicolas Schmit, in a
debate on the Report of the European Parliament on the EU Strategic
Framework for Safety and Health at Work on 10 March 2022, reiterated that the
European Commission will ensure an adequate follow-up to the resolution.
However, he first sees the social partners as having a duty. He said the
European Commission is ready to support the social partners in finding joint
solutions to address these challenges and encourages them to follow up on their
2020 framework agreement on digitisation.
Dealing with psychosocial risks at work
correspondent's demands for dealing with psychosocial risks in the workplace
are very far-reaching. To effectively prevent such
risks, the European Commission is to adopt a directive on psychosocial risks
and well-being at work. It also calls on it to recognise anxiety, depression
and burnout as occupational diseases, and to establish mechanisms for their
prevention and reintegration of sufferers into the workplace. Instead of
measures at the personal level, there should be a shift to an approach at the
level of work organisation.
European legislative proposal aimed at recognising anxiety, depression and
burnout as occupational diseases would interfere with the freedom of the Member
States to design their social security systems, initiatives and measures to
prevent them are to be welcomed, in principle. The accident insurance
institutions in Germany already provide comprehensive prevention measures, such
as consulting services and qualification programmes with the help of prevention
Costs of mental health problems
before the COVID-19 pandemic, significant financial costs were incurred due to
mental health problems. An Expert Panel that advises the European Commission on
efficient, accessible and resilient health systems estimates in a Report on "Supporting Mental Health of Health
Workforce and other Essential Workers" that the total cost of work-related
cases of depression alone in the EU-27 amounted to EUR 620 billion in 2013.
Accordingly, the treatment costs of the healthcare systems amounted to EUR 60
billion, and the costs of the social systems due to disability benefits
amounted to EUR 40 billion.
responsible Committee on Employment and Social Affairs is expected to vote on
the report at its meeting on 19 May 2022. A date has not yet been reserved for
the vote in the plenary of the European Parliament.