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Stress is the top health and safety concern in UK workplaces, according to a TUC study published for World Mental Health Day.
The TUC’s biennial survey of more than 1,000 health and safety reps around the UK asks them to pick out the hazards at work that most trouble them and their workforces.
Stress was at the top of the list in this year’s survey, with 70% of reps citing it as a problem – up 3% since the last survey in 2014 when 67% did so, and a higher proportion than in any previous TUC study. The survey found that concern over stress is higher in the public sector than the private sector. It is especially prevalent in central government (where 93% of reps cited it as a top five workplace hazard), education (89%) and health services (82%).
The survey also found stress is the most common concern faced by reps and workers regardless of the size of the workplace. Since 2014, it has become more widespread in some workplaces, however – most notably in those with 50-99 workers, where 75% of reps cited it as a top-five concern compared with 62% two years ago.
The survey also reveals that stress is the most widespread concern in all 11 regions and countries in the UK. It has increased the most in the last two years in Northern Ireland (up by 13% to 78% compared to 65% in 2014), the North (up by 11% to 78%), Scotland (up by 8% to 74%) and the South West (up by 6% to 81%). East Anglia (64%), the South East (67%) and Wales (75%) have all seen 5% increases in stress being reported as the main health and safety concern at work.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady 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.
“It’s in no-one’s interests to have overstretched workforces. People who experience high anxiety are less productive and are 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.
“Anyone worried about their workload or being unfairly treated at work should join a union, to get the support they need and their interests represented at work.”