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According to the International Labour Law (ILO) and World Health Organization

(WHO), occupational health is "the promotion and maintenance of the highest

degree of physical, mental, and social well-being of workers in all occupations

by preventing departures from health, controlling risks and the adaptation of

health in the African workplace is a pressing and growing concern, mental

occupational health greatly varies, employment and working conditions and

environments are well-known factors that contribute to health. Although mental

health in the African workplace is a pressing and growing concern, mental

health care accounts for less than 2% of global healthcare, with marked

inequality across continents. Africa has the smallest proportion of mental health

service providers and the highest rate of out-of-pocket expenditure for mental

health service users. Poor mental health at the workplace results in costs to

workers, employers, and the economy. It is a crucial determinant of a person’s

overall health and that poor mental health is a contributory factor to a range of

physical illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular conditions,

amongst others. In addition, poor mental health can also lead to burnout

amongst employees, seriously affecting their ability to contribute meaningfully in

both their personal and professional lives.

Mental health difficulties can also affect an individual’s functional and working

capacity in numerous ways. Depending on an individual’s age at the onset of a

mental health problem, his or her working capacity can be significantly


In the workplace, this can lead to absenteeism, require sick leave, and

reduce productivity. Long-term mental health difficulties are, according to a

WHO report, one of the three leading causes of disability, along with

cardiovascular disease and musculoskeletal disorders, and they are a major

reason for granting disability pensions in several countries.

One of the major ways of alleviating the personal suffering of individuals who

suffered psychological injuries during employment is the inclusion of

compensation for such in the national framework for employee compensation.

Unfortunately, while most countries of sub-Sahara Africa have some legislative

provisions for physical injuries and disabilities sustained in the course of work,

scarcely any of them have a distinct provision for mental stress sustained in the

course of work. Although South Africa has a legal provision that allows for

application for retirement from work on mental health grounds[63], the

Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act of South Africa (as

amendedin1997); the Work Injury Benefits Act of Kenya, and the injuries

Compensation Act of Gambia just to mention a few, has no specific provision

for compensation for mental health injury. One country that has taken a step in

this direction, albeit very recently, is Nigeria with the inclusion of a distinct

provision for compensation for mental stress in the newly promulgated Employee

Compensation Act (ECA) of 2010.

A workplace mental health policy helps define the vision of improving

the workforce's mental health and establish a model for action. When a

well-formulated policy is in place, it will also identify and facilitate

agreements needed among the different stakeholders in the workplace.

Without policy direction, lack of coordination and fragmentation will reduce the

impact of any workplace mental health strategy.

Generally, the following steps can be followed to ensure the well-being of

employees at the workplace;

To this end, the World Economic Forum, World Economic Forum’s Global

Agenda Council on Mental Health 2014, gives guidance to the corporate that is

determined to positively impact their employees' mental well-being

employees. The WEF recommends these seven actions:

✓ Be aware of the workplace environment and how it can be adapted to

promote better mental health for you, your colleagues, and the


✓ Learn from the motivations of organizational leaders and employees who

have taken action.

✓ Don’t reinvent wheels, be aware of other companies that have taken

action, and how.

✓ Understand the opportunities and needs of you and your colleagues, in

helping to develop better policies for workplace mental health.

Get started!

Taking practical steps can only benefit an organization. A healthy

workforce is a productive workforce. This adage has been proven many

times over, with some of the best companies to work for implementing the

recommendations mentioned above as part of their strategies to create great

workplaces that are conducive to the well-being of their employees.

In conclusion

Employers of labour and human resource managers in sub-Sahara Africa must

pay attention to the mental health of their workers, not only because doing so is

in conformity with extant guidelines for OHS, but because it ensures continued

productivity. One of the simplest ways to achieve this is to invest in the welfare of

employees as an incentive to drive productivity rather than viewing employees'

welfare as an opportunity cost for sustaining profitability. Innovative approaches

include the establishment of a mental-health and welfare sub-committee

comprising representatives from the worker's body, human resource unit, and

mental health safety experts, as part of workplace occupational health and

safety policy. Such a committee will be responsible for the evaluation and

monitoring of compliance with pre-set occupational mental health goals and

recommend specific actions for implementation.


WHO Regional Office for Europe: Mental Health Action Plan for Europe. 2005,

Copenhagen: ILO.

Atilola O: Global Best Practices in Mental Health in the Workplace: Focus on the

Nigerian Setting. 2012, Nigerian Journal of Labor Law and Industrial Relations, In


Federal Government of Nigeria Employee’s Compensation Act: 2011, Abuja:


Emsley R, Coetzer P: Disability claims on psychiatric grounds. South African

Medical Journal. 1996, 8: 646-



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