On this page we have the following sections:
People will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid admission of having experienced depression, nervous breakdowns or any other form of mental illness? Mental illness is denied and many of those who experience it will use the pretext of physical illness to explain absence from work (bad back, ME etc)
For more on this, go to Rethink
Fortunately, trade unions are tackling stress in the workplace seriously. This is not surprising as recent research shows that seven out of ten adults in the UK have experienced stress at work - up from six out of ten in 1999. Indeed, stress is now accepted as one of the major health hazards faced by employees, with nearly six million days being lost every year due to its effects. The cost to society for sickness absence for stress and mental disorders is in excess of £5 billion a year.
The symptoms of stress can include indecision, anxiety, depression, altered appetite, changes in weight, headache, backache, skin rashes and difficulty in sleeping. They may lead to heart disease and ulcers. As stress levels increase so does the consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and tranquillisers.
Long working hours and shift work can lead to disruption of family and social life, fatigue, and increased accident risks as concentration and attention fail. Overtime and low pay often work together to cause stress.
Shift workers are at risk from:
A major reason for stress is that the employee does not have control of his/her working environment. This applies at all levels of responsibility but the main burden of work-related stress is among shop floor workers, who have little say over their job.
Stress can be caused through the lack of job satisfaction because:
For many workers one of the largest sources of stress is rising insecurity and fear of unemployment.
Violence causes stress. The Health and Safety Executive describes violence as "Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work".
While there is no specific mention of violence in the Health and Safety at Work Act or the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, the general duties on employers can be applied to dealing with violence and aggression.
The HSE’s "Violence to staff - a basis for assessment and prevention" sets out a procedure which will enables safety reps to manage this problem effectively and to provide a framework for investigating the risk of violence at work.
Bullying. For those bullied stress and ill health become a daily occurrence. Failure by employers to deal with bullying can cost time, lost efficiency and production. The staff affected by bullying have a low morale, resulting in lost incentive, reduced work output and quality of service. The HSE’s guidance on bullying is that "employees cannot easily cope with inconsistency, indifference or bullying; employers must look at their management styles; and employers should ensure that people are treated fairly and that bullying and harassment of those who seem not to ’fit in’ is not allowed."
The guide goes on to say that employers should have effective systems for dealing with interpersonal conflict, bullying and racial or sexual harassment, which should include an agreed procedure and proper investigation of complaints.
Safety reps need to negotiate with their employer a stress prevention policy, preferably as part of the firm’s health and safety policy.
An effective policy on stress should:
Its objective should be:
The policy should contain agreed arrangements for joint monitoring and review to assess its effectiveness.
Risk assessment is the key to the implementation of a stress at work policy, as well as the health and safety policy. Workplace unions can organise a number of activities which will give them the information they need to tackle their employers about the risks and causes of occupational stress:
(i) attitudes to job content and work organisation
(ii) feelings of ill health
(iii) increases in smoking etc.
It is important to involve trade union members and listen to their problems. Make them aware that stress is a shared problem which can be tackled through the union. Discussing stress issues within the union will also help to persuade management that there is a problem, and by implementing the solutions suggested, workers will have an immediate feeling of having regained some control over their working environment.
Unions should ensure that members suffering from stress are represented and cared for. Individual grievances must be dealt with effectively and special arrangements negotiated to protect their needs.
"Tackling stress at work A UNISON/TUC guide for safety reps and union negotiators"
"Stress at Work: A guide for Employers" Health and Safety Executive
"Help on Work-related Stress - a short guide" Health and Safety Executive
"ABC of Mental Health in the Workplace" Department of Health
"Tackling Stress in the Banking and Insurance Industry" TGWU/BIFU