World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2023: EESC calls for EU legislation on preventing work-related psychosocial risks

On the World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2023, the European Economic and Social Committee is calling upon the European Commission to adopt binding legislation to prevent psychosocial risks in the workplace. There is mounting evidence pointing to the fact that precarious work is taking a significant toll on workers' mental health. The call was made during yesterday’s EESC’s plenary session, chaired for the first time by the newly elected president, Oliver Röpke.

On 27 April, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) presented its opinion Precarious work and mental health during a debate with the Spanish Secretary of State for Labour and Social Economy, Joaquín Pérez Rey.

The rapporteur for the opinion, José Antonio Moreno Díaz, reiterated there was clear evidence that precarious work increases the chances of workers' mental health deteriorating, making this a public health issue. Precarious work – which covers aspects such as job insecurity, exploitative temporary contracts, long working hours and the inability to plan working time – violates workers' fundamental rights and has to be eradicated and combated in all its forms. This is why the EESC called for the adoption of binding legislation at EU level as well as for the developing and modernising the Directive on Occupational Safety and Health (89/391/EEC).

We need to have a high-quality working environment which does not lead to either physical or psychological suffering. We need a specific EU directive on psychosocial risks, Mr Moreno Díaz said.

Mr Pérez Rey took the opportunity to present the priorities of the future Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU which focus on reducing social inequality in the EU and making labour markets more democratic. The EESC is committed to working with the future Spanish presidency on those issues which are crucial for building a more social Europe.

EESC president Oliver Röpke stated: This Committee has been committed to contributing to the advancement of the EU’s social agenda and to building a sustainable and competitive Europe fit for 21st century. This means, among others, decent labour market conditions, supporting workers’ involvement and fighting precarious work. I welcome the opportunity to discuss such timely topics, which will be at the top of the EESC agenda in this new term in office. I am very optimistic that our opinions will be used during the Spanish Presidency.

Democracy at work and social convergence

The EESC also adopted an opinion on ensuring Democracy at work through full participation of workers and social partners as well as the opinion on the Social Imbalances Procedure, a mechanism which seeks to redress social disparities in Europe.

In the opinion on Democracy at work, the EESC emphasised the importance of making workplaces, regardless of their size or who owns them, more democratic by making sure workers have a say when decisions are made. As rapporteur Reiner Gerd Hoffmann argued, Democracy cannot end at the factory gates. It is important to strengthen democracy at work as this strengthens liberal democracy and contributes to social cohesion.

In the opinion on the Social Imbalances Procedure (SIP), the EESC stressed the need to put the SIP in place to improve the coordination of national efforts to help prevent the rise in social inequality. First proposed by Spain and Belgium in 2021, the SIP should be a social convergence mechanism to detect and correct social imbalances within Member States at an early stage.

Rapporteur Justyna Kalina Ochędzan said: More than 60% of Europeans think that social expenditure should be increased, and that's a very clear sign as to where we should be heading. In the EESC's view, fiscal, macroeconomic and environmental governance are more developed and better coordinated than social governance in the EU, and the SIP should help put social indicators on a par with economic imbalance indicators when framing EU policies.