Staff at a privatised probation company are suffering high levels of stress as a result of intensive, high paced work and unrealistic deadlines, a joint union survey has found. Napo and UNISON represent staff employed in five Purple Futures Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) owned by Interserve. After privatisation in February 2015, Purple Futures introduced a new operational model that included ‘significant staffing cuts’, the unions say. They add that the changes led to a marked deterioration in working conditions, with occupational stress the top cause of sickness absence. The unions embarked on a survey to support their negotiations with management for improvements to work practices. They say the ‘striking findings’ of the study showed workers were being pressured into undertaking excessive work, over long hours at a high pace. Nine out of ten (89 per cent) respondents said that they often or always have to work very intensively and 79 per cent reported they often or always have to work very fast. Six out of ten (61 per cent) said they often or always have unrealistic time pressures. Almost half of all respondents reported they are unable to take sufficient breaks, are pressured to work long hours and often or always have unachievable deadlines. Napo and UNISON are now calling on Purple Futures to follow Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines and establish a joint working group to oversee the stress identification and management process, and for this group to include adequate trade union representation. They are also calling on the company to “remove the triggers for stress in the workplace and provide a safe system of work for all Purple Futures staff in relation to workload” and to “ensure that individual and group stress risks assessment are completed and reviewed when necessary, and that trade union health and safety reps are involved in the risk assessment process”. They say the company should also “agree with the unions a workload management tool, which provides all staff with the reassurance that their workloads will be set according to strict criteria to protect both staff health and safety and public protection.”
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