It is now accepted that working conditions can have an impact on workers’ mental health. The prevention of psychosocial risks has therefore become a priority in many countries. But the question of recognising psychological diseases as work-related is far from being unanimously accepted in Europe. EUROGIP devoted its latest study to this issue.
First of all, this recognition comes up against legal obstacles. National definitions and case law interpretations of what constitutes an accident at work, on the one hand, and regulatory procedures for recognising occupational diseases, on the other, do not allow mental illnesses to be recognised as such everywhere.
Where such recognition is possible, the question arises of objectivising the causal link between exposure and illness, which is almost never presumed in law. A worker’s mental health may be affected by both poor working conditions and non-work-related factors.
Recognition as an occupational injury or disease
It turns out that under certain conditions, a psychological pathology following a specific, sudden and unforeseeable event can theoretically be recognised as an accident at work in many European countries.
However, an increasing number of workers now claim to be suffering from non-traumatic disorders (depression, burnout, etc.), caused by the organisation and working conditions, violence or management style they encounter in the workplace. These situations, corresponding to prolonged exposure to a psychosocial risk, raise the question of recognition of psychological disorders as occupational diseases, an issue on which only a few countries – Denmark, Spain, France, Italy and Sweden – took a favourable stance some twenty years ago.
The new EUROGIP report therefore looks at :
- mental disorders linked to psychosocial risks (those caused by toxic substances, particularly solvents, are excluded);
- the five countries which recognise mental disorders as occupational diseases, as well as Germany and Belgium, where information on recognition as accidents at work is available;
- the process of recognition of the occupational nature of mental illnesses;
- the statistics published by “accidents at work/occupational diseases” insurers.
One point concerns the recognition of suicide.
Download the report in French (official version)