On occasion of the publication by the Ministry of Health of the National Mental Health Strategy for 2022-2026, we reflect on how preventive action can contribute to an increase in the level of mental health of workers.

Following the Covid-19 pandemic and especially in 2021, society has begun to talk about mental health and thus gradually liberate the term from prejudice, stigma, misinformation and the lack of awareness that has always accompanied it.

The unexpected appearance of an illness affecting our physical health, Covid-19, has resulted in institutions and society in general focusing more than ever on mental health, or at least being more aware of the need to preserve it as an essential part of our quality of life.

Although the experts point out that mental health is still an area that is insufficiently dealt with, in recent times work has progressed in the field.

In fact, we could highlight that in the European region of the World Health Organization, mental health has been identified as a key priority. It is also one of the target initiatives of the Mental Health Coalition that European societies change the way they view mental health, assisting countries to improve the way in which their health services work with people and communities to improve it.

Several national and international studies have proven that the pandemic had a significant impact on people’s mental health. In this respect, the Ministry of Health in Spain has published its National Mental Health Strategy 2022-2026.

From a labor perspective, it should be pointed out that this national strategy, as one of its novelties, includes mental health prevention in the workplace by companies; in fact, it includes a section called “mental health and work”.

If we bear in mind that these problems are the second highest cause of -temporary and permanent- absenteeism, second only to muscular illnesses, it is obvious that prevention in this area should be subject to analysis, not only by institutions, but also by businesses when it is within their scope of protection.

The very national strategy itself highlights, amongst other issues, the fact that telework, the use of information technologies and the increasing use of outsourcing and subcontracting are some of the key issues that may have an impact on a worker’s mental health.

Therefore, through their occupational risk prevention services, companies may also include mental health as part of an integrated health and safety strategy “that includes the prevention, early detection, support and re-allocation and reincorporation”. This also requires efficient occupational risk prevention services that train people in mental and psychosocial health.

This integration must be cross-sectional, including mental health in the area of psychosocial risks to be taken into consideration in job assessments and preventive planning, also focusing on improvement of labor environments, with the aim of protecting mental health in working environments and reducing the risk factors related to work.

As stated by the Ministry of Health in its National Mental Health Strategy, “the workplace is seen as the ideal place to promote good mental health of workers and prevent mental health problems resulting from work”.

Along the same lines, it should be highlighted that the lack of psychosocial risk forecast in occupational risk assessments would involve a breach of the labor regulations, given that Law 31/1995 on Occupational Risk Prevention states in its article 14.2 that “in compliance with the duty of protection, the business must ensure the security and safety of the workers at its service in all aspects related to work (…)”.

The lack of provision of psychosocial risks, just as the failure to act or passive approach by the company in this area, may give rise to the consideration of an infringement in the area of prevention.

Therefore, as far as mental health is concerned, similar to other areas of health, it is essential for companies to take a proactive approach to both prevention assessment and planning, as well as to the promotion of working conditions that avoid situations of conflict related to mental health in the working environment, -such as mobbing and stress-: by arbitrating specific procedures.

In short, it is important not to forget that the current preventive legislation is applicable also to psychosocial risks and, therefore, companies must adopt all the necessary and suitable protection measures in order to protect the health of their employees against any type of risk that may affect their work.


Paula Aretio

Garrigues Labor and Employment Law Department