Elizabeth Cotton

Elizabeth Cotton

Senior Lecturer

Department: Business, Management and Law
Telephone No: 
Email: ecotton@cardiffmet.ac.uk

I am a senior researcher and educator in the fields of employment relations, people management and mental health at work. My background is in international employment relations, working for Global Union Federations in countries in the global south and transition economies on educational and organising programmes. I was Head of Education and Programmes for a Global Union Federation (Industriall), and have written extensively about international employment relations, international solidarity and trade union education. My co-authored book Global Unions Global Business (Libri, 2011) looks at the experiences of trade unions internationally and their relationships with multinational corporations.

I returned to the UK in 2007 to work in academia and train in adult psychotherapy at the Tavistock and Portman Clinic. I have worked as a psychotherapist in the UK’s NHS as part of my training and worked with health teams and trade unions to build wellbeing at work. As part of this body of work I developed an online resource for health workers in partnership with the Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust which is free to access www.survivingworkinhealth.org. My recent book Surviving Work in Health: Helpful stuff for people on the frontline (Gower, 2017) was nominated for the CMI’s practitioner book of the year. 

I work as an interdisciplinary writer and educator and am actively engaged in current debates about mental health and the future of health services. My public engagement & writing can be accessed at www.survivingwork.org and www.thefutureoftherapy.org.

My current research focusses on the sociology of work and the link between working conditions and mental health. I am currently writing about the 'Uberisation' and digitalization of mental health services and the impact of Covid-19 on academic work, particularly for people with caring responsibilities.
I am an Editor in Chief of the British Sociological Association's ABS4 Work, Employment & Society (WES) which publishes on key debates about the future of work.
I am also a Senior Fellow of the HEA, Academic Member of the CIPD and member of the British Sociological Association and Association for Psychosocial Studies and a member of the Partnership for Counselling and Psychotherapy. 


My research currently focuses on mental health at work, digitalisation and AI and the impact of Covid-19 on mental health and public services.

The Future of Therapy 

In 2017 I carried out a large survey of mental health workers in the UK looking at working conditions and employment relations as well as two subsequent surveys on working conditions in IAPT surveys (carried out for BBC Radio 5 Live November 2019) and current survey into the impact of C19 on therapeutic services. The research results have been published and disseminated through www.thefutureoftherapy.org. In 2019 I carried out a survey of IAPT workers including information on performance management and issues of workforce burnout. In 2020 I carried out a survey of mental health workers and the impact of Covid-19 on their work and own mental health. These surveys are being produced for publication during 2020.

Surviving Work Library

In 2012 I set up Surviving Work to pilot low cost and progressive interventions for building mental health at work. Surviving Work has an online following of 25,000 people who engage through blogs, social media, workshops and public events. www.survivingwork.org. 

Surviving Work in the UK

In 2017 I edited Surviving Work in the UK, a column hosted by the LSE's Business Review looking at precarious work and mental health. This project will produce an eBook and hold a Survival Surgery in 2017 hosted by the LSE's Dept of Management www.blogs.lse.ac.uk/businessreview/category/surviving-work-in-the-uk/

Surviving Work in Healthcare

In 2015-2016 I created an online resource www.survivingworkinhealth.org in partnership with the Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust for frontline health workers and managers. Resources include videos, podcasts and guides with practitioners in the field based on a series of interviews with 15 senior practitioners, psychoanalysts and academics looking at key issues for frontline workers such as racism, bullying. 

Thinkers in Residence: A Body of Work

This was a one year public awareness project about psychoanalysis and photography hosted by The Photographers Galley during 2016. This project involved a series of recording events and the creation of an online archive of people's thoughts and ideas www.a-body-of-work-tpg.tumblr.com.

Battles on the NHS Frontline

During 2015 I wrote a column for Sage's theconversation.com Battles on the NHS Frontline with an online readership of 20-45,000.


Academic Articles

• Cotton (2017) Constructing Solidarities at Work: Relationality and the methods of emancipatory education. Capital & Class 42 2: 315-331

• Cotton (2015) Transnational Regulation of Temporary Agency Work: Compromised partnership between private employment agencies and global union federations. Work, Employment & Society 29 1: 137-153

• Cotton & Royle (2014) Transnatinoal Otganising: A case study of contract workers in the Colombian mining industries. British Journal of Industrial Relations 52 4: 705-724

• Cotton & Gumbrell-McCormick (2012) Global Unions as imperfect multilateral organizations: An international relations perspective. Economic and Industrial Democracy 33 4: 707-726

External Links​

I am highly engaged in current debates about mental health at work and the future of mental health services. I regularly speak at events and contribute to a number of sectoral, professional, trade union and service-user networks. I am active on social media as Surviving Work www.survivingwork.org and blog regularly about mental health issues. My public engagement activities include:

• Keynote speaker for National Counsellors Day, June 2020

• Survey and interviews on the UK's IAPT service for BBC Radio5Live's day discussion mental health services, November 2019

• Speaker at Unite's community and health workers conference, November 2019

• Keynote speaker at the Mental Health Crisis Summit organised by Keep Our NHS Public with speakers including trade unions and Ken Loach, October 2019

• Interviewee BBC Radio5Live talking about the mental health of mental health workers, September 2019 and 2017

• Keynote speaker, Royal College of Nursing Organisers' Conference, May 2017

• Speaker, Practitioner Health Programme: Surviving Work in Healthcare, February 2017

• Interviewee on the BBC's Talking Business debating the gig economy and the Deliveroo and Uber disputes, September 2016

• Interviewee on Newsweek Foreign Service debating mental health and the USA elections, September 2016

• Keynote speaker for the Association of Psychosocial Studies: You don't have to be mad to work here but...., June 2016

• Debate at the Tavistock & Portman Clinic: Do you have to marry a rich man to be a therapist in the UK? With Clare Gerada, February 2016