Watch out for worker stress, or face the consequences, managers warned

It’s little surprise stress levels have rocketed in the downturn as uncertainty over job security grows, but managers and directors can find themselves in the firing line if they fail to deal with the welfare of their staff..

The Health and Safety Executive - which has issued a new edition of its detailed overview on work-related stress - recently estimated stress costs organisations with 500 employees around 250 working days a year.

And the Labour Force Survey’s most recent report shows an estimated 442,000 individuals in Britain are experiencing work-related stress at a level that is making them ill.

According to research around half of all UK workers believe that their work has been impacted over the past two years due to stresses and worries.

The most common stresses cited by workers were work issues and personal issues - which were likely to have the greatest impact on an employee's work performance; 72 per cent and 71 per cent, respectively of respondents who admitted that their work had been greatly affected by stresses and worries in the past two years cited these problems.

These are followed by stress due to personal health issues with 66 per cent, and the cost of living with 57 per cent. Recent developments in the financial world are only set to exasperate the concerns of employees, as calls for financial and debt information is set to rise.

What many companies are failing to appreciate is that the responsibility of dealing with work-related stress lies with their own directors and managers, according to compliance firm Winter & Company.

"Inspectors can be sent to businesses’ offices to check on work-related stress conditions at any time, and a failure to pass the stress test can result in notices being issued," Managing Director Mitchell Winter says.

Winter and Company provides advice to small, medium and large firms on all health and safety requirements.

Businesses can book a one-day course it is running on work-related stress, as well as other areas, including:

• Corporate Manslaughter and how it affects your Organisation; • Fire Safety: Living with the Regulatory Reform (Fire) Safety Order 2005; • Appointing and Managing Contractors: Vicarious liability, Method Statements and Risk Assessments; • Disability and Medical conditions v Human Resources, procedures and best practice; • Driving on Business: Your legal responsibilities and areas of vulnerability; • Managing Risk: Your Statutory Responsibilities; • Workstation Safety: Dealing with and managing Repetitive Strain injuries; • Manual Handling: Reducing back injuries at work, procedures and best practice.

At www.health-safety.net or by phone on 0800 169 1554.

Further statistics on Work Related Stress in the UK:

• The 2007 Psychosocial Working Conditions survey indicated that around 13.6% of all working individuals thought their job was very or extremely stressful, with the 2008 report showing no decline in work related stress levels. • The annual incidence of work-related mental health problems in Britain in 2007, as estimated from the THOR surveillance schemes OPRA and SOSMI, was approximately 5,750 new cases per year. However, this almost certainly underestimates the true incidence of these conditions in the British workforce. • According to self-reports from the LFS an estimated 237,000 people first became aware of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2007/08, giving an annual incidence rate of 780 cases per 100,000 workers. • Estimates from the LFS indicate that self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for an estimated 13.5 million lost working days in Britain in 2007/08. • LFS survey data suggests the incidence rate of self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety has been broadly level over the years 2001/02 to 2007/08, with the exception of 2005/06 where the incidence rate was lower than all other years. • THOR surveillance data shows a mixed picture with psychiatrist reports of work-related mental health remaining stable between 2000 and 2007 but occupational physician reports showing a clear upward trend over this time period. The ONS omnibus survey shows no overall trend in the proportion of people saying their job was very or extremely stressful between 2004 and 2008. • Occupation groups containing teachers, nurses, and housing and welfare officers, along with certain professional and managerial groups have high prevalence rates of self-reported work-related stress according to the LFS. The LFS also shows people working within public administration and defence to have high prevalence rates of self-reported work-related stress. • The THOR datasets SOSMI and OPRA also report high incident rates of work-related mental illness for these occupational groups, along with medical practitioners and those in public sector security based occupations such as police officers, prison officers, and UK armed forces personnel.