United Kingdom National Work-Stress Network

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What's New 10.01.15

May we wish all our visitors a Stress Free New Year

Conference 2014

We have now posted information about our 2014 conference and it is available on the Annual Conferences page. There is a conference report as well as copies of presentations from the Plenary sessions

Watchdog and firms doing 'sod all' of use on stress

Taken from TUC Risks 685, 10 January 2015

Workplace stress causes heart and other chronic diseases, higher rates of sickness absence and suicides. So why, asks TUC's Hugh Robertson, are the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and employers doing 'sod all' of any use to tackle the bad management practices at the root of the problem? In a special report in Hazards magazine he points to an October 2014 report from the HSE that found: "The rates of work-related stress, depression or anxiety, for both total and new cases, have remained broadly flat for more than a decade." According to the TUC safety specialist: "that means is that after 10 years of stress management standards sod all has happened, or at least what has happened has made no difference." He says while occupational stress is clearly recognised at a top workplace health problem, it is not been addressed by the regulator like other workplace risks. "So given that over 400,000 workers are being made ill every year, how many prosecutions has it taken? None. HSE inspectors are told they cannot prosecute an employer on stress," he reveals. "HSE inspectors have issued a small number of improvement notices since 2002 where stress has been mentioned, usually as part of a more general problem. But there have been none in the past five years .If this was any other hazard and any other condition I think there is little doubt that the HSE would be taking a different approach. This lack of action means that employers are getting away scot-free." Employers, meanwhile, "see it as being a 'well-being' initiative, not a health and safety one." The TUC safety specialist concludes: "The problem is that tackling stress can mean changing working practices, increasing staffing levels or changing management systems and so it is clear that the majority of employers are just sticking their head in the sand and hoping the problem will go away, or instead, are trying to fix the workers. The result is hundreds of thousands of workers have to live with totally avoidable depression or anxiety."

Prison Officers' Association Stress Survey report

We were pleased to welcome delegates from the POA again to our conference in 2014. They have followed this up by providing us with a copy of the POA recent research project carried out for them by University of Bedford (see the news article below). It is available in the Downloads section of the website. Many thanks to POA for their continued support for our work.

Stressed prison staff are 'totally demoralised'

Taken from TUC Risks 682, 29 November 2014

Prison employers are failing to meet any of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stress management benchmarks, an independent study for the prisons officers' union POA has found. Researchers from the University of Bedfordshire examined the work-related stress and wellbeing of prison officers and of nurses in psychiatric secure hospitals. The POA described the finding of the study as "shocking", and said it highlighted the need for an urgent review, including and evaluation the feasibility of the planned extension of the prison officer retirement age to 68. The findings, presented last week at a seminar in the House of Commons, highlighted the failure of the service to meet any of the HSE stress management benchmarks. The study showed the levels of psychological wellbeing and job satisfaction in the service is considerably poorer than those found in other "highly stressed" occupational groups. More than four out of five respondents (84 per cent) indicated that they felt under pressure to come into work when they felt unwell. They also revealed that disclosing work related stress and "failure to cope" is highly stigmatised in the sector and little support seems to be available. Three quarters (75 per cent) indicated that working after 60 years of age would impair their job performance "very much". The union POA noted: "There is overwhelming evidence for an urgent review of members' working conditions and staffing levels as well as plans to increase the pension age."

Prison Officers' Association Stress Survey report

We were pleased to welcome delegates from the POA again to our conference in 2014. They have followed this up by providing us with a copy of the POA recent research project carried out for them by University of Bedford. It will be located in the Downloads section of the website. Many thanks to POA for their continued support for our work.

Survey of journalists finds dangerous stress

Taken from TUC Risks 681, 22 November 2014

Journalists working for the newspaper giant Johnston Press (JP) are suffering dangerously high levels of stress, journalist' union NUJ has found. A health and safety survey across JP's titles revealed 82 per cent were subject to unrealistic time pressure, with 44 per cent saying this was cases often or always. The survey found 80 per cent reported being pressured into working long hours. It also revealed eight in 10 journalists did not support performance-related pay, believing it to be divisive and unfair. The NUJ has called for a moratorium on further cuts at JP, whose titles include the Yorkshire Post and the Scotsman, until these matters have been addressed. The union says the company's reorganisation and modernisation plans mean it should invest in staff and equipment, not make cuts. A summary of the results was presented to JP's management, which has agreed to work with the union to address the problems revealed. NUJ national organiser Laura Davison, commenting on the 'stark findings' of the survey, said: "There should be a moratorium on any further job cuts, and vacancies should be filled as a priority. We want to work with the company on addressing these critical issues and this needs to be started speedily and be based on meaningful consultation with the workforce."

Going to work is more stressful than ever

Taken from TUC Risks 678, 08 November 2014

Britons find their jobs more stressful, precarious and demanding than ever before, according to an extensive poll of experiences of the workplace conducted for the TUC. Two-thirds of employed people say that the amount of work they are expected to do has grown over the past few years, and more than a third are expected to do unpaid overtime, YouGov found. The findings, reported by the Independent on Sunday, suggest only a third of us report looking forward to going to work; the rest are either ambivalent or dread it. The findings reflect those of this year's TUC survey of union safety reps, which identified stress as the top workplace hazard (Risks 678). TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "What job we do is a big part of our identity. Yet this poll reveals that many of us work in unfair workplaces that don't get the best out of their staff. Employers and politicians talk up the flexible labour market, but for too many it means being treated as only slightly more important than what is in the stationery cupboard." The poll found just under a quarter - the equivalent of more than six million workers nationwide - worry that they might lose their job in the next year, and a third are worried that their job may offer worse conditions, such as fewer hours or less pay, in that time.

Union reps say stress is the UK's top concern

Taken from TUC Risks 677, 01 November 2014

Stress tops the workplace concerns of union health and safety reps, the TUC's 11th biennial TUC survey has found. The survey findings, published last week, reveal the top-five cited hazards are stress, bullying and harassment, overwork, back strains and slips, and trips and falls on the level. Over two-thirds of safety reps (67 per cent) taking part in the survey said that stress, and the effect it is having on their colleagues, is one of the main concerns they have to deal with at work. One in six of the workplace reps who completed the survey say their employers are failing to conduct risk assessments, which is a breach of health and safety law. TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "It's shocking that so many employers are breaking the law and putting their staff at risk of illness and accidents by their sheer negligence. Not only does this put people in danger while doing their jobs, the consequences also carry a high cost for British businesses and public services because it results in lower productivity and more staff spending time off sick." She added: 'Stress remains the top concern for health and safety workplace reps. It's a particular problem in parts of the public sector like the NHS and local government that have been hit by cuts and top-down reorganisations. Sickness and absence from stress is one of the false economies of public sector austerity.'

Study highlights spiralling lecturer stress

Taken from TUC Risks 677, 25 October 2014

Scotland's university lecturers are facing heavy workload pressures and high levels of work-related stress caused by university management practices. The findings, based partly on a survey carried out by the union EIS, indicate that teaching staff in the university sector have lower levels of wellbeing and satisfaction compared to overall scores of those working across all sectors of education. EIS says the findings reveal concerns over management and leadership, as well as significant workload pressures and a lack of access to appropriate professional development. The EIS-ULA report, 'Workload and workplace stress', found 'workload' (42 per cent) and 'dealing with management' (23 per cent) were the top contributors to stress. Dr Nick McKerrell, EIS-ULA president, said: "Heavy levels of workload coupled with increasing concerns with university management practices, including managerialism, can lead to increased levels of work-related stress. Stress-related illness is one of the most significant risks to lecturers' health and wellbeing, with serious consequences for both individual lecturers concerned as well as for the institution and the students that it serves." Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, added: "The EIS would urge all employers in the higher education sector to work constructively with staff representatives to tackle the problem of excessive workload and to reduce instances of work-related stress."

Stressed out, overworked and underpaid

Taken from TUC Risks 677, 25 October 2014

UNISON members are being expected to do more work with fewer staff for less pay, the union's national health and safety committee has warned. Meeting as this year's European Health and Safety Week kicked off on 20 October, the public sector union's safety committee indicated this oppressive combination was the motivation behind its 'Cut stress, not jobs' campaign. "The truth is that our members have been at breaking point for a long time," said committee chair Malcolm Harrington. "Over the past four years they have consistently been expected to do more, with fewer staff employed, and for less pay. In short, our members are stressed out, overworked, and underpaid." Vice chair Pam Sian added: "It is important to remind employers and others that there is a big difference between stress and pressure. A little pressure can be motivational and help us to prioritise important work, but when the pressure becomes too much to cope with and makes us feel ill, that's stress and it is always harmful." In a recent survey of UNISON safety activists, 90 per cent of respondents said that stress was one of the top health and safety concerns in their workplace.

Civil service survey reveals stress, bullying and overwork

A catalogue of bullying, increased working hours, cuts in holiday and attacks on sickness absence have been revealed in a damning survey of conditions in the civil service yesterday. Stress levels have massively increased as the coalition government continues to attack its own employees, according to the survey carried out by PCS union. The survey results come after the latest official figures showed 87,000 civil servants have lost their jobs since 2010 as ministers boast of shrinking the civil service to its smallest size since the second world war.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: " While ministers cheer the fact they're cutting the civil service to the bone, their unnecessary cuts are clearly having a detrimental effect on people's health and their ability to do their work. The government has no claim to be a model employer when it is causing such high levels of stress, ill-health and overwork"

Europe: Stress remains a major problem at work

Taken from TUC Risks 676, 18 October 2014

A quarter of workers in Europe report feeling stressed at work all or most of the time, and a similar proportion say that work affects their health negatively, a new report has revealed. "Psychosocial risks in Europe: Prevalence and strategies for prevention" has been published jointly by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Working and Living Conditions (Eurofound). They found fewer people report working long hours but say at the same time job insecurity has increased across Europe, and in some countries work intensity has risen in companies struggling in the economic crisis. Director of EU-OSHA, Dr Christa Sedlatschek, said "Psychosocial risks, although more sensitive, can be tackled in the same systematic way as 'traditional' workplace risks." Eurofound director Juan Menéndez-Valdés added: "Reducing psychosocial risks and protecting workers from these risks is critical for allowing longer working lives and preventing early labour market exits." He added: "Research shows that the role of social dialogue and social partners is relevant to raise awareness and implement interventions."

UCATT to focus on stress during European Safety Week

Construction union UCATT are highlighting the increasing problem of workplace stress during European Health and Safety Week which runs from Monday 20th October - Friday 24th October. The theme of this year's week is workplace stress. UCATT has found an increasing number of construction workers are affected by stress. The union has published a new leaflet in order to help workers become more aware of the issue. The leaflet is available on their website

UCATT officials and activists throughout the UK will be highlighting the problems of stress at work, during the week. Workplace stress has become an increasing problem in many workplaces due to a number of factors including: cuts in staffing numbers, workers forced to work excessive hours and bullying and harassment from management. Steve Murphy, General Secretary, said: "Workplace stress is a debilitating condition which can lead to severe physical and mental illness. It is essential that if construction workers are suffering from stress then they are given help and support to resolve the problem."

Last year 42 workers were killed in the construction industry. Many of those deaths were entirely preventable. One of the features of European Health and Safety Week is for workplace safety reps to undertake a thorough inspection of their workplace. This takes place on National Inspection Day which is Wednesday 22nd October. UCATT safety reps will be conducting inspections of their workplaces and in several cases will be examining their company's supply chain as well.

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Workers "hiding stress and depression"

Huge numbers of workers are hiding mental health conditions from their employers because they fear it will affect their career, according to a new report published today. A survey of 2,000 adults by insurers Friends Life showed that two out of five have suffered from stress, anxiety or depression in the past year and not told their boss.More than one in four of those surveyed said they had taken a day off sick and claimed that it was for a physical rather than mental health problem. The most common cause of stress was excessive workload, followed by frustration with poor management and long working hours, the study found. More than half of those polled said their career prospects would be damaged if they were open about stress or anxiety. Younger workers were more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety or stress, said the report.

Friends Life group chief executive Andy Briggs said: "Our research shows that there is still much to be done in tackling mental health issues in the workplace."

One in 10 social workers "would quit" over stress

Social workers "Under huge pressure"

The stress of ' sharing people's misery' and the dangers of inexperienced staff are leading many social workers to want to quit the profession, a study says. Nearly one in 10 UK social workers (8%) are considering leaving the job, with over a fifth of these blaming stress or unmanageable caseloads, it adds. Many blame poor management and too little time with clients. Community Care magazine and recruitment firm TMP surveyed 2,100 social workers and carried out 20 in-depth interviews. The research suggests social work has become more demanding, with 94% of those surveyed saying there is more day-to-day pressure on social workers than ever before.


One interviewee said: "My stress levels are perpetually too high and my mental and physical health suffers as a result. Most nights I wake up in the night worrying about work I have not had time to do. I struggle to enjoy life outside work as I'm so exhausted."
Another said: "I love social work but sharing people's misery is becoming too much." The survey also suggested there was a sense that such high stress levels were ignored by bosses.
One social worker said: "With high caseloads and a lack of support, I feel unable to do a good job." Another added:"There is a consistent disbelief of workers' stress levels, and difficulties in managing such high caseloads."

Culture of blame

Another highlighted problems with the culture of her workplace: "I am sick to death of tokenism, political correctness, and a risk averse, process-led and incompetent management driven only by the need to appease Ofsted." This was reflected by another, who said: "The management structure is top-heavy and the blame culture is still prevalent."

Manager of the British Association of Social Workers England Maris Stratulis said: "Members continue to contact us about poor management and poor support including irregular supervision, limited career development opportunities, and an organisational culture of blame. It is critical that employers engage in open dialogue with social workers on a regular basis. Employers need to walk the floor, talk face to face with social workers, and dig deep about the key issues that social workers are citing as to why their current organisation is not a good place to work."

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TUC Issue Revised Stress Guide

The TUC has revised it's guide to reducing stress at work for European Health & Safety Week. It states clearly that employers must complete stress risk assessments, preferably by using the HSE's stress management standards, and they must consult union health and safety representatives in that process. This should ensure employers act to reduce the risk of stress in the first place, not just focussing on picking up the pieces when someone is made is unwell or adding to their burden with aggressive sickness management systems.

The guidance can be accessed through the webpage for the week by following this link to the document Or directly at the TUC Stress Webpage

Stress tops the workplace concerns of UNISON reps

Taken from TUC Risks 672, 20.09.14

UNISON health and safety reps have identified stress as a top hazard in the workplace. Responding ahead of next month's European Health and Safety Week, 9 out of 10 reps placed stress and related issues including bullying and harassment, violence and threats, overwork and long hours, as their most serious workplace concern. UNISON says its survey findings reinforce the union's call for branches to support the stress-themed European Health and Safety Week, which this year runs from Monday 20 October to Sunday 26 October. The union is urging branches to check that employers have a policy and procedure on workplace stress and that it includes the 'pointers' identified in UNISON's guide on stress. It adds that they should ensure the employer 'has risk assessed stress as a workplace hazard and put in place appropriate measures to prevent and control', and 'that these policies, procedures, and risk assessments either take into account or take a similar approach to the HSE's management standards for work-related stress.' UNISON says its reps should "raise these issues with the employer as appropriate." The union is also encouraging its union reps to participate in the TUC's National Inspection Day, on Wednesday 22 October

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More must be done to help people with mental health problems stay in work

Chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies says mental illness cost £100bn last year yet 75% of people received no treatment

Dame Sally Davies said around 70m working days were lost to mental illness last year.More help is urgently needed to help people with mental health problems stay in their jobs, says the government's chief medical officer, warning of the toll of mental illness on individuals and the economy.

Dame Sally Davies said that around 70m working days were lost to mental illness last year, costing the economy £70 to £100bn. The number of working days lost to stress, depression and anxiety has risen by 24% since 2009, she says in her annual report. Yet 75% of people with diagnosable mental illness get no treatment at all. "The costs of mental illness to the economy are astounding. Through this report, I urge commissioners and decision-makers to treat mental health more like physical health," said Davies. "Anyone with mental illness deserves good quality support at the right time. One of the stark issues highlighted in this report is that 60 to 70% of people with common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety are in work, so it is crucial that we take action to help those people stay in employment to benefit their own health as well as the economy." There is a great need for earlier treatment for children and young people with mental health problems, she said. Half of adult mental illness starts before the age of 15 and 75% by the age of 18. Unless young people get help, they risk a life of problems including unemployment, substance misuse, crime and antisocial behaviour. "Under-investment in mental health services, particularly for young people, simply does not make sense economically," she said.

Mark Winstanley, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said that for many people with mental illness, having a job can be a crucial of managing their condition and staying well."But often people get very little support to go back to work after a period of mental illness, or to stay in employment," he said. "Many employers also assume that if you have a mental health problem, you won't be able to hold down a job." More specialist help to get people with mental illness back into the workplace and greater understanding from employers was needed, he said. But those who were unable to work because of their condition should not be demonised.

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, agreed with the emphasis on keeping people in work and supported Davies' call for more mental health training for all doctors as well as waiting time and access standards for patients.

Professor Sheila Hollins, chair of the British Medical Association's Board of Science said: "We are encouraged by this report and will continue to call for equal treatment for both physical and mental health patients, the reduction of waiting times for mental health patients, and the introduction of equal funding between mental health services and other NHS services."

Germany: Ban on out-of-office contact investigate

Taken from TUC Risks 670, 05.09.14

German employment minister Andrea Nahles is considering new 'anti-stress' legislation that would ban companies from contacting employees out of hours. Concerns over rising levels of workplace stress prompted the minister to commission a report investigating the viability of legislation that would restrict the use of emails to contact staff outside of work. She told journalists: "There is an undeniable relationship between constant availability and the increase of mental illness. We have commissioned the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to work out whether it is possible to set load thresholds. We need universal and legally binding criteria." It is already illegal in Germany for employers to contact staff during holidays. Several major companies such as Volkswagen and BMW have also implemented their own restrictions on contacting employees out of hours. Last year the German Labour Ministry banned managers from contacting staff outside of work. Recently, car manufacturer Daimler installed software on its systems which automatically deletes emails sent to staff out of hours. A study released recently by the union DGB showed that increasing numbers of German workers are retiring early through stress. The findings of the workplace stress report will be delivered next year. Earlier this year, unions and employers in France's technology and consultancy sectors agreed a legally binding agreement that workers would no longer have to answer work emails or phone calls outside work hours,

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Look Who is Supporting the Network

It's none other than Ricky Tomlinson. Thanks Ricky.

Ricky Tomlinson supports the Stress Network

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Help Needed To Test a Stress Information Toolkit

The Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) is currently carrying out a project funded by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU OSHA) to develop an information toolkit on stress and psychosocial risks at work. This important piece of work will eventually be translated into all of the different official languages of the EU and will help the managers and owners of micro and small businesses to understand this topic. Here in the UK, evidence from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) shows that the incidence of lost time due to stress-related problems at work is increasing; and has overtaken musculoskeletal problems as the main cause of sickness absence and a similar pattern can be seen throughout the EU so it is important to get it right.

As part of this work the IOM need to recruit the owners or managers of some small (11-50 employees) and micro (1-10 employees) companies to help evaluate the toolkit content and its usability. This will be done through the use of an online survey questionnaire. If you complete the survey you will be entered in to a draw to win a Kindle or equivalent monetary value donation to charity. In addition to this, as a result of your participation in this work the IOM will ensure that on final completion of the e-guide they will provide you with an updated version.

If you are interested in taking part in this evaluation then please get in touch with the IOM either richard.graveling@iom-world.org or alice.davis@iom-world.org (these e-mail addresses are not active on this page) or visit their website www.iom-world.org/news-events/news/2014/help-the-iom-to-test-a-stress-information-toolkit/

Extended Timeline of Unions in the UK

Trade unions are an integral part of the UK workforce, with the TUC representing 6.2 million trade union members in 2013 across 54 affiliated unions. With such a large number of trade unions in the UK, it can be difficult to learn about each trade union and how they came to be. By utilising design and interactivity, the timeline (click here to go to the website) aims to make information about unions in the UK more accessible

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The Health and Safety of Older Workers- Guidance

A Guide for Workplace Representatives

There is a higher proportion of older people in Britain now than at any time in recent history and it is likely to increase. At present one in every six people is over the age of 65, but by 2033 that is expected to rise to almost one in four. We are also seeing changes in the number of older people in the workplace. The number of people aged 65 and over reached the 1 million mark for the first time in 2013. This is partly because we are living longer but also because birth-rates are falling

This guidance, downloadable using this link, will help workplace representatives accommodate for an ageing workforce

Healthy Working Lives Scotland

Healthy Working Lives are Scotland's national service here to help employers create a safer, healthier and more motivated workforce. We work with all kinds of businesses, completely free of charge, offering practical information and advice to help improve health and safety and the wellbeing of everyone at work.

For further information please go to our Links page

TUC Guide for Safety Reps to Safety and Migrant Workers

This is the introduction from the Online guide

The issue of the safety of migrant workers in the UK became a national issue when at least 23 workers were killed by rising tides while harvesting cockles in Morecambe Bay. Since then there have been a number of further individual tragedies, mainly in agriculture and construction. Unfortunately there are no accurate figures on the number of migrant workers who are killed, injured or made ill through work. However many migrant workers do face specific difficulties and this guide from the TUC has been written to help safety representatives and other union officials work with migrant workers to make sure that their rights are protected.

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New Stress Booklet

A new edition of our Work Stress booklet has been published and is available by clicking on the link here

The conference newsletter is now available from our newsletters page.

The Conference page. links to our previous conferences

Health and Safety Executive Bulletins

The HSE publish a Health and Safety Digest on their website weekly and the site is updated daily. For further information visit the What's New section at hse.gov.uk

Come Tweet with us

The Stress Network now has a Twitter page @workstressuk where you can keep up to date and join in conversations

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