Get tough on stress

Recently published statistics from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) indicate that employers are still causing or exacerbating illness in their employees.  One of the biggest causes of this employee ill-health is work-related stress, with 428,000 cases reported in 2011/12.  

Despite providing a range of tools to help organisations tackle work-related stress, the HSE offers no explanation of why the number of cases has remained broadly flat over the past decade, when in contrast, cases of musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) have fallen mainly due to efforts to tackle work-related back pain.

On average, a person with a MSD takes 17 days off work, whereas absenteeism rises to 24 days for a person with work-related stress – that is over 40% more lost productivity.  So you’d think that employers would be queuing up to find ways of reducing this loss.  On the contrary they blame a lack of time and a lack of knowledge for doing comparatively little.  I’m sure that if they used that excuse for not submitting their VAT correctly they would be prosecuted.

Maybe that’s the point.  Companies can only be cajoled, encouraged and educated so far. As we witnessed with the introduction of seat belts, tougher action needs to follow after a period of education.  The first step could be the introduction of RIDDOR* for stress related incidents in the work place – this might prompt HR personnel to consider the issue more carefully in their own organisations.  The second could be more enforcement and penalties. 

But if you want to do the right thing right now – ie tackle work-related stress and promote wellbeing at work – and need some help with these issues contact gill@unisonmedia.co.uk


* RIDDOR is the legal requirement to report serious workplace accidents and occupational diseases



Health and Safety Executive (2012).  Annual statistics report 2011/12.  HSE.  http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/overall/hssh1112.pdf

Health and Safety Executive (2012) Musculoskeletal disorders.  http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/musculoskeletal/msd.pdf

Concept 32. (2005).  Attitudes, opinions and experiences of attendees at the  ISMA UK stress workshops 2004.  HSE    http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr389.pdf

Employee Assistance Professionals Association (2012).   Research confirms effectiveness of EAP counselling intervention.  EAPA news article 17/10/12 http://www.eapa.org.uk/news–research-confirms-effectiveness-of-eap-counselling-intervention.html


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