Work pressure is making thousands of us ill

11 Nov 2019

Annual Labour Force Survey (LFS) figures from the Health and Safety executive (HSE) reveals over 600,000 UK workers are suffering from work related stress, depression or anxiety - and it's more prevelent in public adminstration and defence jobs with workload being the major factor.

Work related stress is on the increase. In 2018/19 there were 246,000 new cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety with a total of 12.8 million working days lost. Poor mental health is costing the UK economy between £74 billion and £99 billion annually, according to government figures in the Thriving at Work review.

Despite a slight increase in civil service jobs recruited in to deal with the EU referendum result, over 60,000 jobs have gone in the Civil Service since 2010. The 2018 Civil Service people survey results shows at least 35% of respondents say they have recently or are suffering from work related stress.

The HSE has recently amended it's criteria on stress investigation. TUC guidance published this week explains that HSE will now consider investigating collective stress issues in the workplace, if workers have failed to get a satisfactory conclusion from raising it with their employer.

All this shows that stress, depression and anxiety are not simply issues that manifest in individuals - they are firmly linked with the working environment and everything that is related to it. Therefore, it should not soley be down to individuals to resolve the problem. Seeking medical advice for their condition is an important part of the process but it is not going to resolve the problem long term.

Trade union response

With the spotlight on the crisis of poor mental health in society on a national scale, trade union reps have a key role to play in monitoring work related stress in the workplace and ensuring management are adhering to the HSE management standards on identifying potential work stress issues when making changes in the workplace or organisation.

This stress and mental health crisis, which has been compounded by austerity, job cuts, harsh sickness and attendance management policies and changes to the way work is managed, has created a ticking time tomb. Initiatives to raise awareness of mental health in the workplace are to be welcomed, however if the underlying root causes of the problem are not addressed then it's effects will carry on. This trend, if allowed to continue, will manifest long term health problems in workers such as an increased risk of heart disease and other health issues. Work releted stress, depression and anxiety is a human reaction to pressures and conditions at work. Trade unions have a key role to play in collectivising this as an issue and campaigning for improvements and for a fully funded and resourced civil service.

PCS are discussing with other Civil Service trade unions about agreeing a framework for national discussions on health, safety and wellbeing in the civil service, related areas and outsourced areas. Dealing with stress and mental health will be a key aspect of this work. We will put forward our proposals, hopefully in unity with the other civil service unions, to the Cabinet Office.

In the meantime we want to hear from you:

  • Have you ran a successful workplace or employer wide intitiative or campaign on stress and mental health at work?
  • Have you conducted workplace surveys or collected data on the scale of the problem in your area?
  • Do you have a example of good working practices and standards in your area or workplace?

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