United Kingdom National Work-Stress Network

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What's New 24.03.15

Hazards Conference 2015

Safety Reps: Reclaiming the Health and Safety Agenda,

This annual conference will be held at Keele University, Stoke-on-Trent between 04-06 September 2015.

For more information you can their website here or alternatively see the booking form here

If you or your organisation wish to sponsor this important conference you can download the information here

Hospital staff absences for mental health reasons double

Hospital staff absences for mental health reasons double

Figures obtained by the BBC revealed 41,112 staff were off sick with anxiety, stress and depression in 2014 - up from 20,207 in 2010. NHS England said it needed to do more to support staff. The Royal College of Nursing said the figures reflected the "relentless pressure" staff were under. The NHS employs 1.25 million people across all of its services throughout the country. A spokesman for the NHS said: "Our staff are some of the most hard-working and dedicated people in our country. We now have record numbers of nurses and other front-line professionals, but the NHS needs to become better at supporting staff -- not least because better staff experience leads to better patient care." NHS Employers, the organisation which represents its managers, added it was doing more to support staff.

For more details on this report please visit the BBC News article

Austerity measures create unsustainable stress

Cuts to local authority budgets are having a profound effect on the services people receive and are leaving the staff delivering them facing "unsustainable stress", a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found. The charity's research, examining the impact of government "austerity measures", found the poorest communities and residents are being hardest hit and those least able to cope with service withdrawal are bearing the brunt. The report also noted "...frontline staff within local authorities are working very hard to cushion service-users from the worst impacts of the cuts, principally by taking on expanded workloads " It added: "The level of stress this entails does not appear sustainable in the longer term and in many areas staff report feeling overwhelmed by the scale and nature of the problems they are dealing with. At the same time as their organisations are shedding staff, they find needs increasing. At least some of these needs result from the cuts in welfare benefits which are creating a depth or intensity of problems which organisations have not faced before."

To read the full report please visit the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Website

European companies honoured for commitment to stress management

Over 100 European companies and federations have been honoured after volunteering to become official campaign partners of the 'Healthy Workplaces Manage Stress'..EU-OSHA, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, paid tribute to the organisations and honoured them with a ceremony that was held as part of a two-day 'Benchmarking event on Occupational Safety and Health' in Brussels from 5-6 March.

For further information please visit the SHP website by following this link

Scottish mental health staff feel the pressure

Scottish mental health staff are working under increasing stress, says a new UNISON report, with 84% saying their workload has increased, and 76% reporting cuts that affect the quality of patient care. The findings, which cover the last three years, come in the report See Us, which looked at the experience of workers across mental health services in the NHS, local government and the community and voluntary sector. It brings together work carried out by UNISON Scotland among members delivering Scotland's mental health services in acute wards, the community, working for the NHS, local authorities and the third sector, and gives voice to the concerns they have in their working life and for the services they provide. Staff said that cuts in mental health services often go under the radar. They reported that " it is difficult to recruit and retain staff and jobs do not get refilled" as "staff are leaving and not being replaced, or if replaced their position is downgraded" They also reported a freeze on vacant posts for both nursing and social care, with jobs being regraded and advertised at a lower levels so as to save money

For further information please visit the UNISON website by following this link

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

Union survey of stressed out Telegraph staff

Taken from TUC Risks 629 28 February 2015

Editorial staff at the Telegraph are being asked by their union about workload, work pressures and the effect cost-cutting changes at the paper have had on the quality of news. The NUJ said it was acting on concerns arising after a 'brutal' spate of redundancies. Union reps at the paper say the staff cuts have been followed by significant restructuring. The NUJ survey covers work conditions at the paper and also allows editorial staff to make other comments in confidence. Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: "The brutal cuts at the Telegraph titles during the past few months have seen experienced and long-serving staff axed under the disguise of investment in digital, with remaining staff expected to maintain and boost quality with fewer resources" She added: "This survey will give staff an opportunity to voice their concerns anonymously about these changes and wider issues."

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.

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

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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."

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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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