Scottish MP Calls on the Government to Review Approach to Mental Health
A local MP has called on the Scottish Government to review its approach to mental health after recent findings revealed that over 11,000 staff working for the East Dunbartonshire Council have been signed off with stress to date.
450 members of staff working for the Council have been signed off with stress or other mental health issues since 2012.
Local MP Jo Swinson revealed this alarming statistics after she recently made a Freedom of Information request. One of the most significant statistics showed that 68% of those staff signed off were absent for under a month.
Jo Swinson said: “It’s time the SNP Government get a grip on mental health. We have recently seen scandalous waiting time figures for adults and children who are in serious need of treatment, a lack of hospital beds and now these statistics which show a worryingly high number of council staff taking time off work.’’
The Scottish Government in reply has said that it has already committed an additional £15 million to mental health services which will start to have an impact over the next 3 years. The Scottish Government has also stated that they are committed to tightening legislation and are also committed to ending the stigma surrounding stress and mental illness issues generally.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Improving mental health and treating mental illness are two of our major priorities. We have made clear commitments to improve mental health services and support for people experiencing distress and mental ill health.’’
East Dunbartonshire Council leader Rhondda Geekie said: “We recognise that anyone can experience life events and/or a level of stress which they find difficult to cope with and which can impact on their health and wellbeing.
That’s why we have a ‘Wellbeing at Work’ policy and toolkit, and we have an Employee Welfare Team which supports employees with either personal or work related issues, or a combination of both. Where needed, an employee will be offered further, external support through, for example, our Employee Assistance Programme, HR Business Partners, debt counselling, osteopathy/physiotherapy or addiction services. We hold ‘Wellbeing at Work’ information days and we provide regular information and advice to employees to help them stay healthy.
Our figures from 2012 to 2014 on the numbers of employees absent from work with stress-related reasons show significant improvement. While we are encouraged by this trend, we will continue to make the wellbeing of our employees a priority.’’
Rhondda Geekie also stated that the staff at East Dunbartonshire Council were actively encouraged to adopt healthy lifestyles to promote wellbeing.
These issues are not just common place in Scotland. Councils in England and Wales are also experiencing high numbers of staff suffering with stress or other mental health issues. Such Councils are therefore also facing increased challenges of ensuring that they deal with their staff suffering from stress in accordance with the law by, amongst other things, ensuring that appropriate support measures are put in place.
From a legal perspective, employers have a duty of care to their employees to protect them from an injury to their health attributable to stress at work. Therefore employers who fail in their duty could be exposed to claims for compensation.
Those suffering with work related stress may be able to claim compensation for the impact matters have had on their health, the cost of any necessary treatment on a private paying basis and lost earnings from their employer.
The legal position for those who have suffered or who are suffering with stress at work is complex.
Oakwood Solicitors are specialists in these types of claims and are able to advise and assist you in respect of a claim.