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Stress at Work. Tom Mellish, TUC Health and Safety Policy Officer. Stress at Work. The TUC’s Vision No one should leave work at the end of the day less healthy than they were when they started. Stress at Work. Topics to be covered Stress – what it is and what a policy could look like

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stress at work

Stress at Work

Tom Mellish, TUC

Health and Safety Policy Officer

stress at work2
Stress at Work

The TUC’s Vision

No one should leave work at the end of the day less healthy than they were when they started

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Stress at Work

Topics to be covered

  • Stress – what it is and what a policy could look like
  • Stress - and bullying

- and alcohol/drugs

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Stress at Work

Definition of stress

“the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them.”

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Stress at Work

HSE research indicates that:

  • about half a million people experience work-related stress at a level they believe was making them ill;
  • up to 5 million people in the UK feel “very” or “extremely” stressed by their work; and
  • work-related stress costs society between £3.7 billion and £3.8 billion every year.
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Stress at Work



1998, 2000 & 2002

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Stress at Work

TUC Survey

  • 250,000 Safety Reps in UK
  • Over 8,9200 in 2000, 5,350 in 2002 and 4,500 in 2004
  • Over 1,000 from workplaces with fewer than 50 employees
stress at work9

Factors 2002

Workloads 99.4%

Cuts in staff 64%

Change 63%

Long hours 55%

Shift work 22%

Bullying 28%








Stress at Work
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Stress at Work
  • where there are over 1000 workers the percentage rises to 63%;
  • overwork or stress is more of a concern in the public sector (64%), than in the private sector (48%) and this represents an increase in both sectors since 2002;
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Stress at Work


In 2004 survey, 4 out of every 5 safety reps (79%) consider that workloads are a problem.

Compared to private sector (73%), problem of workloads is greater in public sector (83%) and voluntary sector (77%).

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Stress at Work

Staff cuts up from third to second place as main stress related problem. Staff cuts identified by half the safety reps (49%) in the 2004 survey, show similar results to 2002 and 2000 surveys. They are identified more often in the private sector (53%) than in the public.

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Stress at Work

For individual sectors, as in 2000, cuts in staff a particular problem:

  • Central Government (69%);
  • Banking, Finance and Insurance (59%).

Staff cuts more concern to safety reps in:

  • workplaces with 100 - 200 workers (51%) and over 1000 workers (55%); and in
  • London (57%) and the South East (54%).
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Stress at Work
  • Safety reps in all sizes of workplace identified workloads as a major problem, but the worst are workplaces with between 100-200 workers (84%).
  • Workload is a particular problem in South West England - 86% identified it as an issue related to stress.
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Stress at Work

For individual sectors, workloads are a particular problem identified by safety reps in:

  • Education (88%);
  • Central Government (85%);
  • Health Services, Local Government and Banking, Finance and Insurance (all 83%).
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Stress at Work


Bullying still significant problem.

Number of safety reps identifying it is just over one in four (27%).

More often in the public sector (30%) and voluntary sector (29%) than in the private (20%).

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Stress at Work

Bullying is seen as an increasing problem since 2002 by safety reps in:

  • Central Government (40% increasing from 37%);
  • Local Government (37% increasing from 33%)
  • Bullying more of a problem as size of workplace increases - 34% of safety reps from workplaces over 1000 compared with 18% in workplaces with fewer than 50 workers.Bullying particular problem in London (36%) and Wales (33%).
stress at work sources of stress include
Stress at WorkSources of stress include:
  • Job design – boring, no control, isolation, pace/flow,lack of breaks, too little/too much work
  • Contractual – low pay, unsocial hours, long hours, excessive overtime, job insecurity
  • Environment – noise, lighting, overcrowding, fumes, canteen, temperature
  • Relationships – supervisors, sexism/racism, bullying, violence, communication, customers,
observational workers may act differently when stressed
Mood changes:

bad moods







Behaviour change:



accident prone

speaking too loud/fast

personal appearance

Observational:Workers may act differently when stressed
stress at work organisational
Stress at WorkOrganisational

In an organisation stress may

manifest itself as:

  • High levels of sickness and absence
  • High accident rates
  • High turnover of staff
  • Low morale
  • Low productivity
  • Bullying
stress at work self reported physical and emotional symptoms of stress

Aches and pains

Nausea or dizziness


Unexplained rashes

Indigestion and heart burn

Low self esteem

Poor concentration

Loss of libido

Depression or anxiety

Anger - irritability

Panic attacks

Stress at WorkSelf-reportedphysical and emotional symptoms of stress
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Stress at Work

An effective policy on stress should:

  • recognise stress as a health and safety issue;
  • be jointly developed and agreed with trade unions;
  • have commitment from the top;
  • guarantee a non-judgemental approach; and
  • apply to everyone
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Stress at Work

The objectives of a policy should be:

  • to prevent stress by identification and elimination;
  • to recognise and deal with stress through education, participation and co-operation; and
  • to rehabilitate through the provision of independent and confidential counselling
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Stress at Work

Key to a stress policy is good risk

assessment. This should include:

Physical environ Equipment

Job content Working time

Management Training

Service conditions Support systems

Managing change

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Stress at Work

Court of Appeal Judgement, February 2002

(Hatton, Barber, Bishop and Jones)

  • Foreseeable
  • Workplace Signs
  • Signs from the Employee
  • Prior Sickness Periods
  • Advice line
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Stress at Work
  • Union Campaign for legislation
  • HSE Standards on Managing

Stress at Work

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Stress at Work

Provision of occupational health

  • Access to OH services
  • Workplace OHS
  • Group OHS
  • Contracted-out OH
  • HSE’s Employment Medical Advisory Service (EMAS)
  • National Health Service models
  • Community Services