Workplace stress at record levels, say union health and safety reps

Share this page

Stress is the top health and safety concern in UK workplaces according to a TUC study published today (Monday) on World Mental Health Day.

The TUC’s biennial survey of more than 1,000 health and safety reps around the UK asks them to pick out the hazards at work that most trouble them and their workforces.

Stress was at the top of the list in this year’s survey, with 7 in 10 reps (70%) citing it as a problem – up 3% since the last survey in 2014 when 67% did so, and a higher proportion than in any previous TUC study. Stress is one of the main causes of mental health problems, in particular anxiety and depression.

  • Stress is higher in the public sector: The TUC survey finds that concern over stress is higher in the public sector, most affected by government cuts, than the private sector. It is especially prevalent in central government (where 93% of reps cited it as a top five workplace hazard), education (89%) and health services (82%).
  • Big rise in concern about stress at medium-sized companies: Stress is the most common concern faced by reps and workers regardless of the size of the workplace. Since 2014, it has become more widespread in some workplaces – most notably in those with 50-99 workers, where 75% of reps cited it as a top-five concern compared with 62% two years ago.
  • Stress levels rising across the UK: The survey also reveals that stress is the most widespread concern in all 11 regions and countries in the UK. It has increased the most in the last two years in Northern Ireland (up by 13% to 78% compared to 65% in 2014), the North (up by 11% to 78%), Scotland (up by 8% to 74%) and the South West (up by 6% to 81%). East Anglia (64%) the South East (67%) and Wales (75%) have all seen 5% increases in stress being reported as the main health and safety concern at work.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The message from the shop floor is clear, stress is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. Pressures of long working hours and low job security are being felt in workplaces across the UK.

“It’s in no-one’s interests to have overstretched workforces. People who experience high anxiety are less productive and are more likely to take time off. Stress is preventable if staff have reasonable workloads, supportive managers and a workplace free from violence, bullying and harassment.

“Anyone worried about their workload or being unfairly treated at work should join a union, to get the support they need and their interests represented at work.”

The TUC has published guidance on dealing with stress at work and how employers can promote positive mental health. It highlights three key points:

  • Stress is not a weakness or your fault: it can affect anyone at any time.
  • Don’t let the stigma of mental health force you to suffer in silence: but instead talk to someone like your union rep, a friend, your GP or a support service
  • Stress-related illnesses caused by work are preventable. Employers have a legal responsibility to reduce or remove anything at work that could make you ill – and that includes workplace stress.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- More than 1,000 health and safety reps took part in the TUC’s 12th annual health and safety survey. Health and safety representatives are volunteers appointed by unions to work with workers and employers to keep workplaces safe.

- The findings of the TUC’s health and safety rep survey are available at www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/focusonhealthsafetyreport.pdf  

- % of reps reporting stress as the top concern in 2016 and 2014 by region and nation

Region or nation

2016

2014

% increase/decrease

The North

78

67

+11

The North West

66

71

-5

Yorkshire and the Humber

67

67

0

The Midlands

73

71

+2

East Anglia

64

59

+5

The South East

67

62

+5

London

74

75

-1

The South West

81

75

+6

Scotland

74

66

+8

Wales

75

70

+5

Northern Ireland

78

65

+13

- The TUC’s guidance on workplace stress is available at www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/Stress%20Guidance%20July%202014%20pdf_0.pdf

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk
- Follow the TUC on Twitter: @The_TUC and follow the TUC press team @tucnews

Press Release
Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Share this Page