Focus on work-related stress in the Netherlands

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A recent study has found that 60% of Dutch employees suffer from work-related stress. The unions have placed this issue at the top of their agenda for the 1998 collective bargaining round.

A recent study from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam found that 60% of Dutch employees suffer from work-related stress. In the rest of Europe, this figure is 45%. Over the last few years the number of people applying for benefits under the Dutch Disabilities Benefits Act on grounds of psychological problems has increased, and the NIA TNO research institute estimates that approximately half of all psychological problems are caused by work.

The research finds that work-related stress is caused not only by excessive workloads or overtime, but also by the level of organisational restructuring. As a result of such reorganisation, both productivity per employee and established target figures have increased. In addition, many companies now operate with a minimum number of employees on permanent contracts, and an increasing number of duties are being assigned to the same job. However, the increasing pressure on employees has also led to decreases in the quality and quantity of rest periods. Modern communication technology such as mobile telephones and e-mail extend the working day by transforming travelling time into working time. Because much work is taken home, the division between private life and work is becoming increasingly blurred. The most stress is experienced by commercial service employees, followed by employees in transport, communication, trade and catering. In education, dissatisfaction with the workload led to massive strikes by teachers in February 1998 (NL9802161N).

The trade unions have placed the issue of stress at the top of their agenda for the forthcoming 1998 collective bargaining round. If employers are not willing to cooperate, the emphasis will be shifted to wages. In addition, the Dutch Trade Union Federation (Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging, FNV) feels that the health and safety services should pay more attention to work-related stress.

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