Mental health in the world of work in times of COVID-19
13:00 – 14:30 (Bangkok time, GMT+7), 3 June 2021
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Organised by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights in collaboration with Labour Action China
Mental distress at workplace has been an issue among different sectors for quite sometime. The COVID-19 pandemic has, however, exacerbated the problem due to various reasons, including because of the (in)voluntary work from home environment. Employees in the world of work are experiencing increased anxiety around job security, fear of getting infected, higher stress due to changes at work, feeling lonely or isolated in working from home, and difficulties in achieving a work-life balance. Healthcare and other frontline workers are facing additional mental and psychological pressure at work due to increased workloads. The pandemic has also triggered individualisation, informalisation and irregularity of work (the three “I”s) in certain sectors such as the platform-based food delivery industry. These settings are not conducive for mental health in the world of work or decent work generally.
International standards such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and the ILO Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy envisage business enterprises to identify, prevent, mitigate and remediate adverse impacts on human rights, including on the right to health. Moreover, states have a duty to protect against human/labour rights abuses by businesses. This session will discuss the relevance of these standards in protecting the mental health in the world of work. Using case studies from different sectors and sub-regions in Asia Pacific, the panellists will consider the respective duty and responsibility of states and businesses in safeguarding mental health of employees in the world of work, especially in times of COVID-19. It will also consider whether the ILO’s Employment Injury Benefits Convention (No. 121) should include protection of mental health of employees at work.
The key objectives of this session are to:
Understand better the mental health issues faced by employees in different sectors in Asia Pacific;
Discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the mental well-being of employees at work;
Raise awareness about the role of states, businesses and trade unions in protecting mental health of employees in the world of work;
Explore the need for any revisions in relevant national laws or international standards.
Panelists will reflect on the following questions:
What has been the situation of workers’ mental health and well-being in different sectors and sub-regions in Asia Pacific? How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted this situation?
Do workers in vulnerable situations (such as casual or gig workers) face additional risks to their mental health?
What should states, businesses, and trade unions do to protect the mental health of employees in the world of work?
What other measures such as awareness campaigns, better work-life balance, civil society support groups, changes to business cultures, and reducing inequalities may be needed to support the mental health and well-being of workers?
Is there a need for the revision of the ILO Convention No. 121 and/or other relevant standards to safeguard better the mental health of employees in the world of work?