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October 12, 2016

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Workplace stress reaches record levels, says TUC

Stress in the workplace is the biggest hazard for UK workforces, according to a study published by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

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

This year, stress topped the list, with 70% of respondents citing it as a problem, a higher proportion than in any previous TUC study.

Stress is one of the main causes of mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.

Among other things the survey found that:

  • concerns about stress are higher in the public sector than the private sector, 93% of central government cited it as a top five workplace hazard, compared to 89% in education and 82% in health services.
  • Stress is the most common concern regardless of the size of the workplace.
  • Stress is the most widespread concern in all 11 regions and countries in the UK, with the biggest increases in Northern Ireland, the North, and Scotland.

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, 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.

“People who experience high anxiety are less productive and 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.”

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.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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Mike Kelly
Mike Kelly
7 years ago

I couldn’t agree more
Time for many employers to join the 20th Century!!
In my experience they fail to recognise the hazard, actually it’s worse than that-they prefer to ignore it.
Even when you show them the evidence
Mike .

Mike Gallagher
Mike Gallagher
4 years ago
Reply to  Mike Kelly

Interesting response Mike… After almost 30 yrs in the H&S industry, and having practised extensively in Stress Prevention Management, I have a different view. At a point in time, I’ve seen ‘bad back’ absentees replaced by ‘self-diagnosed’ ‘stress at work’ cases. Akin to any ‘accident’ at work, no two cases are the same – especially in the ’21st’ century! What I’ve also found interesting is that there’s been a rise in presenteeism – the type where employees go to work with an upper respiratory infection, or a sprained ankle, for examples. However, stress at work can happen (the majority of… Read more »

judith tymon
judith tymon
4 years ago
Reply to  Mike Gallagher

Thanks Mike G, a great overview and really useful strategic focus for us all.
Judith L