UNISON calls for action to tackle stress epidemic in public services

Union survey of 10,000 members shows that stress is harming staff and services – but employers rarely talk about it

UNISON is stepping up its campaign on stress after a survey of 10,000 members showed that it is the top health and safety concern for union members.

Some three-quarters of members said they had never been surveyed by their employer on stress – and 61% said their employer had never spoken to them the issue at all.

The biggest cause of stress, say UNISON members, is excessive demands placed on them by staff shortages, cuts and constant change.

And 87% of the almost 10,000 who answered said that increasing pressure on staff, and the stress that brings, means that services to the public suffer.

UNISON is calling on its branches and members to challenge employers and get them to talk to workers about stress, carry out stress audits and take steps to manage and reduce stress at work.

“Too many employers are not tackling stress at work,” commented UNISON national secretary Jon Richards.

“If employers keep on ignoring the problem of stress, workers will continue to suffer and services to the public will be affected.”

General secretary Dave Prentis called for a change in government priorities, noting that “continuing pressure on our public services inevitably leads to an increase in stress as staff struggle with increased workloads and a lack of resources.

“Constant change at work is adding strains that need not be there, resulting in uncertainty in staff roles and a lack of job security.”

“The government must see that its policy of cut and cut again is slowly strangling our essential public services and should be reversed immediately.”