The 9th edition of the European Trade Union Institute’s (ETUI) network meeting on psychosocial risks (PSR) at work was held on 31st May – 1st June 2023 in Leuven, Belgium. This face-to-face meeting brought together a multi-professional audience whose areas of expertise involved work-related PSRs. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss effective ways on how to address and prevent work-related PSRs.

The discussions of the meeting were centred around one of  ETUI’s projects which was presented to the audience by its leaders. The project’s aim is to examine and provide a clear understanding of the concept of work-related PSRs to enable a systematic approach to its prevention in terms of future legislation. This is especially important owing to the high prevalence of exposure to work-related psychosocial hazards for example in the OECD countries, as was heard from one of the researchers.

Presentations of the two-days event underlined primary interventions of PSRs as the best way to tackle work-related PSRs. However, inclusion of secondary and tertiary prevention measures to complement primary prevention (but not to replace it), was also emphasised. Participants agreed that having effective national policy interventions and an EU directive on PSRs would be the best approach for the mitigation and prevention of work-related PSRs.

Discussions concluded that the current EU regulatory framework addressing work-related PSRs only addresses the basics, does not include any specification of PSRs, and is not effective. It was noted that having a clear framework which will address all work-related PSRs may be challenging because of lack of uniformity across nations in relation to terminologies and typologies around psychosocial work environment. However, the possibility to have all necessary prevention measures and interventions in one directive was also recognised. The ETUI project on the conceptualization of PSRs, which was the basis for the discussions during this network meeting, will create a robust basis for this.

The conceptualization of PSRs was extensively discussed around different dimensions. Participants discussed and provided suggestions for a prospective regulation at the EU level that would effectively mitigate and prevent work-related PSRs. Suggestions for the EU directive included: (i.) adopting effective frameworks that address PSRs across countries, (ii.) having clear definitions of the key psychosocial hazards and employer obligations in the management of PSRs, (iii.) mandatory education and training of key actors of PSRs on the basic understanding of work-related PSRs, (iv.) prioritisation of primary prevention and collective measures, (v.) inclusion of policies that protects marginalised and vulnerable workers from work-related PSRs, and (vi.) translating the directive into simplified language and into different national languages of the EU to make it easily understood by the people it serves.

The preliminary results of the ETUI Conceptualization of PSR project will be discussed in the next network meeting which will be held on-line on 21 November 2023.