Laying Down the Mental Health Law to Prevent Psychosocial Risks in France: A Way to Contribute to Exercising a Particular Form of Social Justice?

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
While in France law is incorporating mental health into the field of health at work, how occupational health professionals are they using it to prevent psychosocial risks for employees? Paradoxically, the methodologies for occupational health intervention that are disseminated there are mainly developed by psychology and psycho-ergonomics researchers, who use clinical approaches to work (Filliettaz & Billette) and who are highly critical of the regulations on mental health at work. They say that the regulations reduce health to the concept of risk, and thus facilitate exclusion of workers who are considered to be exposed to hazards and presumed to be weakened or diminished, and, in any event, that the regulations make it difficult to conduct a debate on work and suffering, even though such discussion is necessary to mental health construction. Researchers then suggest that occupational health professionals free themselves of the regulations on mental health at work and place their intervention within the framework of other legal fields. In this context, we have conducted an analysis of how law is used socially (Ewick & Silbey) in a Weber’s perspective, attentive to the legal arguments that are exchanged between the parties and to the identities they activate for each person (Lapoire-Chasset). It appears that, paradoxically, the professionals who adopt the legal posture recommended find themselves in a confusion of roles, sometimes to the extent they lose their capacity to act, whereas the other professionals, who have decided, on the contrary to "lay down the law" on occupational mental health, find the means of deploying legal arguments capable of inviting the other stakeholders into the process of constructing health at work, for which everyone is calling. Better protected by their status they reassert, they take part in a redistribution of resources and contribute to exercising a particular form of social justice.