Groups urge firms to take better care of workers’ health
MANILA, Philippines — Labor groups urged employers on Tuesday to see past their profit margins and look after the well-being of their workers, especially now that the World Health Organization (WHO) had already considered burnout due to work as a legitimate medical condition.
But the vice president of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Julius Cainglet, admitted that employers might find it hard at first to provide for their workers’ health needs.
“This is a big challenge since a lot of employers find it difficult to comply with existing basic standards such as having enough doctors and nurses depending on the firm’s size and having full-time safety officers. The occupational safety and health culture really have to change,” Cainglet said.
On Monday, the WHO included burnout in its International Classification of Diseases, which is widely used to make a diagnosis on patients. It defined burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
The syndrome is characterized by “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”
The WHO stressed, however, that this condition was specific to the occupational setting and “should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”
In the Philippines, for example, Cainglet said burnout was most common among call center employees, who deal with irate customers, and manufacturing workers, who try to meet their quotas.
The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa hailed as a welcome development the classification of burnout as a medical condition, especially since this has long been shrugged off by employers “who can’t see beyond their profit margins.”
Josua Mata, Sentro secretary general, said that, apart from improving the occupational safety and health program in the workplace, the best way to address burnout is for Congress to pass the proposed security of tenure law.
“After all, what could be more stressful than worrying about being unemployed due to lack of job security?” Mata said.
For the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), the WHO classification brings to light the need for employers to provide their workers not only with recreational activities but also treat them to routine paid rest.
To better protect workers, ALU-TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to come up with guidelines on how to treat employees who would report feeling burned out.
The Bureau of Working Conditions of the DOLE noted though that the condition as a psychosocial concern could already be addressed in the occupational safety and health standards law as well as by the mental health law.
(Editor: Alexander T. Magno)