The workers affected – and those in our emergency services and NHS who fought to save their lives – deserve answers as to how this was allowed to happen.” Professor Phil James, Professor of Employment Relations at Middlesex University and Editor of the report, said: “When the pandemic was declared on 11 March 2020, the Government had to decide how it would balance the protection of public health with the protection of the economy. A year later, our analysis suggests it got that balance wrong. Our jobs are among the most important features of our lives, but they are not worth our lives, nor are they worth the lives of colleagues, family and friends. “This light-touch approach to the regulation of businesses during the worst pandemic we have seen in 100 years must now be subject to a major independent public inquiry to understand what went wrong and how we can do better. It is vital that we learn from the failings of workplace regulation over the last year, because this pandemic proves that workers’ health is also public health – it benefits us all.” Lord John Hendy QC, Chair of the IER and a co-author of the report, said: “Something has gone very badly wrong when enforcement action has been taken against over 40,000 members of the public and holidaymakers are threatened with ten years in jail but employers known to have put thousands of people at risk are getting off scot free. There has been health and safety legislation on the UK’s statute book for over 200 years. The current regulations are well known and could have been reasonably and effectively applied to protect workers. They were not. Had employers been reminded of their legal duties and these laws enforced through robust inspections and effective penalties, workplaces could have been made a lot safer than COVID-19 has shown them to be.” Carolyn Jones, Director of the IER, said: “The Government and HSE has neglected perhaps the richest resource at their fingertips in their exclusion of the UK’s nearly 100,000 trained trade union health and safety representatives from listen to this podcast their ‘COVID-secure’ strategy. Several comparative economies have adopted a co-enforcement approach whereby the State and trade unions work together to ensure the health and safety of those at work and the models that work well internationally should be considered in building a similar approach in the UK. In the second stage of our health and safety project, we will take evidence from representatives across the economy and society to understand how better cooperation between all concerned can make a difference in the future.” Concluding this initial report, the team made the following recommendations: The urgent launch of a major independent public inquiry into the future of the regulation of safety and health at work in the UK, with a focus on creating a regulatory system, including an effective regulator, that will better protect the health and safety of all workers in the UK, now and in the future. A significant increase in investment in the HSE to promote stronger enforcement of legal protections, thereby improving their effectiveness. A comprehensive review of enforcement strategies employed by the HSE and local authorities, including a critical examination of the – currently rare and diminishing – use of legal sanctions. Ensure the political independence of the HSE by considering its reconstitution in line with the United Nations’ Paris Principles, which require the involvement of representatives from civil society and the ringfencing of adequate funds to prevent Government from imposing its political beliefs through budgetary controls. Strengthen trade union safety representatives’ rights to access workplaces, undertake preventative work and support the enforcement of the law, such as through the issuing of improvement notices and the bringing of private prosecutions. Enhance existing safety representative rights relating to the provision of information, consultation, and training (including paid time off to undertake it). Reform the current statutory framework for health and safety at work to better protect workers in modern, more casualised, forms of employment, including those found in the gig economy. Reform and enhance current laws permitting workers to stop work in conditions of serious and imminent danger, – provisions derived from EU law and provided under Sections 44 and 100 of the Employment Rights Act,. Consider adopting international models of co-enforced oversight, that involve State regulators working alongside trade unions and other civil society organisations to monitor and enforce compliance with legal standards.


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Psychiatrists report increased levels of burnout and stress Psychiatrists report increased levels of burnout and stress A study has found consultant psychiatrists in Ireland face increased risk of burnout because of a widespread public misunderstanding of the role of mental health services. Picture: Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas/Pexels Consultant psychiatrists in Ireland face an increased risk of burnout because of a widespread public misunderstanding of the role of mental health services for children and teenagers, according to the findings of a new medical study. Research on occupational stress levels among consultant psychiatrists working in the Republic found a majority expressed concern about misconceptions of the HSE’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and its impact on their work. The study by researchers at University College Dublin (UCD) revealed 56% of psychiatrists believed the public perceived CAMHS as a “catch-all service” which resulted in them often receiving inappropriate referrals for patients with disability or social care issues. “CAMHS’ inability to meet the demands of both referrers and service users, when faced with demands outside of their remit or ‘core business, caused demoralisation and stress among staff,” it concluded. The consultants said such referrals overburdened CAMHS and also led to a bad feeling among patients great post to read who had been turned away. The UCD study said correcting such misconceptions about CAMHS “core” role was important in order to ensure that available scarce resources were utilised most effectively as well as to minimise stress levels among healthcare staff. Psychiatrists called for greater public awareness campaigns to highlight that CAMHS offers a specialist service to treat moderate-to-severe mental illness rather than a non-specialist service for young people with behavioural problems, transient emotional difficulties or disabilities. They claimed there was a need for more proactive action from the HSE focussing on positive and realistic outcomes and promoting a higher media profile of child psychiatry. Psychiatrists observed that the media focus on mental health services for children and young adults was predominantly about problems and deficiencies with “negative and sensationalist newspaper articles regarding CAMHS”. They also called for greater inter-agency joint working in recognition of the overlap of needs in families with young members who had mental illness, educational difficulties and social care needs. The study noted that demand had increased for most mental health services and had outstripped availability which had resulted in long waiting lists for patients. Three-quarters of consultants surveyed experienced moderate or high levels of work-related burnout, while 69% admitted having considered changing their job. Picture: Andrea Piacaquadio/Pexels The number of referrals to CAMHS increased by 24% between 2012 and 2018. The study observed that consultant psychiatrists are exposed to and expected to manage stress from multiple sources which makes them a particularly vulnerable group to occupational stress and burnout. Three-quarters of consultants surveyed experienced moderate or high levels of work-related burnout, while 69% admitted having considered changing their job.