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Stress still the biggest problem in UK workplaces

Workplace stress


New research from the TUC has shown that stress in the workplace is still the biggest problem for UK employers, citing excessive workloads, job cuts and rapid change as the most prominent reasons amongst employees.

Today (1st November) is International Stress Awareness Day and figures released by the TUC found that 61% of the Union Safety Reps questioned cited stress to be the biggest problem at work. This figure has risen over the last four years, as in 2004 it was 58% and 56% in 2002.

Employment law information

These figures changed depending on the size of the firm, at firms with 50 or less staff, stress is the main concern for 58% of safety reps, whilst at organisations that employ over 1,000 staff, the figure rose to 67%.

Three-quarters of the reps stated that the factors which were most likely to problems with stress at work, excessive workloads was most likely, with 76%, this was followed by cuts in staffing levels (57%), rapid change (53%), long hours working (34%) and bullying (33%).

Employment lawyer

Employment expert James Wright at national law firm Irwin Mitchell said The 9th National Stress Awareness Day highlights the implications and impact of increasing numbers of days absent employees take as a result of stress.

Employers need to be aware that failing to take steps to deal with stress in the workplace could give rise to liabilities under different employment laws and guidelines.

To avoid or minimise the impact of stress, employers should consider the following steps:-

  • Assessing the working environment for stress, possibly in terms of a stress audit;
  • Providing training for managers to recognise and deal with stress issues as and before they arise;
  • Giving support to employees through, for example, third party confidential help lines or occupational health providers;
  • Creating a stress policy, making it clear that the employer takes the issue seriously and let employees know of steps they can take in the event they believe they are suffering from stress;
  • Conducting return to work interviews, employee surveys and appraisals with employees to identify poor performance and conduct issues arising as a result of stress;
  • Consulting and informing employees over issues that may cause stress such as organisational changes or excessive workloads; and
  • Monitoring staff hours of work and ensuring adequate rest breaks.

While employers should not be complacent about such issues, a survey published in 2005 revealed that contrary to expectations, workers in the UK were among the least stressed at work across Europe.