Ireland: EWCO CAR on WORK-RELATED STRESS

  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 22 November 2010



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This CAR contribution indicates that there has been an increase in work-related stress, and stress-related occupational injury claims and employment law cases, in Ireland. However, it is very difficult to get precise estimates of the incidence and extent of workplace stress in Ireland given the lack of available data and a clear definition. The CAR describes Work Positive, a comprehensive national state-sponsored risk management process operated by Ireland’s Health and Safety Authority (HSA) that incorporates a risk assessment covering the major causal factors associated with workplace stress.

Q1 Monitoring work-related stress at the national level

1. Are there any instruments in place to monitor work-related stress at the national level, for example, national surveys, sectoral studies, epidemiological studies, action research, or other research programmes? Please describe the main sources of information available on work-related stress in your country (coverage, methodology, definitions used, etc.).

Yes, national surveys monitor work-related stress. The Central Statistics Office (www.cso.ie) monitors workplace stress, while the Department of Social and Family Affairs monitors Occupational Injury Benefit (OIB) claims, including those that are stress-related.

There has also been national survey research, which includes questions on workplace stress. A national survey of over 5,000 employees’ work experiences published in 2003 by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and the National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP) – ‘The Changing Workplace: A Survey of Employees’ Views and Experiences’ – contains data on employees’ experience of workplace stress. http://www.ncpp.ie/dynamic/File/ESRI Employees_RZ Composite.pdf

Details are provided below.

2. Provide, if available, data on the overall level of work-related stress based on the identified sources. If possible, identify the main trends in this matter presenting data (e.g. for the last five years).

The Central Statistics Office reports that in 2009, 13,000 people in the Republic of Ireland suffered from stress. Unfortunately, no information is provided as to what definition of stress the data refers to. Also, data from the Department of Social and Family Affairs on Occupational Injury Benefits (OIBs) claims indicates that there was a 60% rise in OIB stress-related claims in 2009. The rise in the number of OIB stress claims – up from 206 in 2008 to 342 in 2009 – is significant, while still low in terms of the overall number of OIB claims. Over the previous four years, from 2005 to 2008, the average number of stress claims was 211 a year. OIB is payable to employees who are absent from work for more than three days as a result of an accident or occupational illness. All OIB claims are subject to scrutiny and medical assessment by the Department and claimants may be medically examined. Details of the injury/illness have to be entered on a form by a doctor and the form must also be completed by the claimant’s employer.

The ESRI/NCPP employee survey contains findings on overall levels of work-related stress, as follows:

A significant proportion of Irish employees reported experiences of work pressure:

  • 82% agree or strongly agree that their job requires them to work very hard;

  • 51% agree or strongly agree that they work under a great deal of pressure;

  • 38% agree or strongly agree that they never have enough time to get everything done in their job;

  • 47% agree or strongly agree that they often have to work extra time over and above their formal hours to get through the job or help out.

Lawyers in Ireland are also seeing an increase in bullying and stress claims, according to Aisling Butler, who chairs the Health and Safety Lawyers Association of Ireland. The trend is manifesting itself in more cases for unfair dismissal coming before the Employment Appeals Tribunal, in which issues of bullying and stress are raised.

In summary, there appears to be a clear trend of the incidence of workplace stress increasing in Ireland in recent years. However, it is very difficult to get precise estimates of the incidence and extent of workplace stress given the lack of available data and a clear definition.

Q2 Risk factors for work-related stress

Based on the main or most used monitoring instruments available (identified in Q1), please provide information on the following risk factors for stress.

Note: If available, please provide information on the main changes or trends in text. Any tables with figures illustrating those trends should be included in annex (if possible, breakdown the data by gender and/or other relevant variables).

  • Quantitative demands: workload, working hours, quantity and intensity of work.

  • Qualitative demands: these refer to emotional and cognitive demands at work and may include work-life balance issues, complexity of work, dealing with angry clients and suffering patients, feeling afraid, having to hide emotions, etc.

  • Relations at work which may include social support from colleagues or supervisor, management style and relationships with colleagues/managers/the organisation; violence and harassment at work.

  • Autonomy, decision latitude and room for manoeuvre: control over work, including control over pace of work and over job content and decision-making power; predictability of work, use and possibility to develop skills.

  • Individual and collective mechanisms for employees’ involvement, particularly in relation to organisational change and change management, including communication of change.

  • The perception of the role that the employee holds in the organisation and whether the employee is clear about what is expected of them in terms of their job; clarity of the management changes, i.e., how organisations manage and communicate change; motivation; over commitment and reward.

  • Conflicts of value and organisational justice.

  • Precariousness of work (i.e. nature of the employment contract).

If there are no surveys or large scale research programmes available, please provide information on how stress is measured/assessed in other sources: qualitative research data on stress risk assessment at company level or sectoral level, studies with a focus on specific occupations, etc.

The Irish ESRI/NCPP national employee survey in Q1 above found that while quantitative work demands associated with work intensity may well lead to stress for the individual employees, this is not axiomatic. Therefore, the researchers also consider a number of more direct measures of stress. Within these measures they focus in particular on the qualitative issue of work/life balance and the extent to which the effects of work spill over into people’s home and family life. Respondents were asked how often they experienced the following:

  • Find your work stressful;

  • Come home from work exhausted;

  • Find that your job prevents you from giving the time you want to your partner or family;

  • Feel too tired after work to enjoy the things you would like to do at home;

  • Find that your partner/family gets fed up with the pressure of your job.

The results were that a quarter of employees always or often find their work stressful, and a higher proportion (31%) frequently come home from work exhausted, 18% are often or always too tired to enjoy things outside work, which suggests there is a work/life balance problem for significant minority of workers. On the work/family conflict items, between 10 and 15% of respondents record such problems.

The survey researchers then measured work stress against job and personal characteristics. Work pressure is lower among those on non-standard employment contracts: this is true for part-timers and those on non-permanent contracts. A similar pattern is noted for work stress with those in permanent full-time jobs experiencing greater stress. Work pressure and work stress is highest among those higher up the occupational hierarchy, especially among professionals and senior officials/managers. The association between increased responsibility and greater job pressure and stress is well established. Work pressure is also high amongst skilled craft workers. The relationship between stress and occupational position is not as clear-cut as for work pressure, which confirms that sources of stress can be varied across employees – lack of control can be equally stressful as having too much responsibility, similarly some sources of stress may be related to a clash between work and other demands rather than the nature of work itself. The experience of work pressure and work stress is more common in the public sector than the private sector. Although public sector workers are not subject to competitive pressures, demands for greater work intensity may arise from other sources, for example, from the demands of the general public, labour shortages, or change processes. Across industrial sectors, it is employees within the Hotel/Restaurant Industry and the Transport & Communications sector who experience the highest levels of work stress. This may reflect, the researchers suggest, the greater tendency for workers in these sectors to work unsocial hours which has implications for family life. Stress levels are also high in the Health sector. The researchers also found that work stress increases with organisational size. Those in workplaces of more than 100 employees are most likely to experience stress. This may appear somewhat counter-intuitive, the authors suggest, in terms of work-life balance, as small and medium size enterprises have been found to have a low level of family friendly policies.

Turning to individual/personal determinants of work stress, male employees were found to experience more work pressure and stress than female employees. Although men tend to take on less responsibility for caring/household work than women, the greater inflexibility of their jobs and longer hours of paid work may well lead to higher levels of work/life conflict. Work pressure is found to increase with age until it peaks among the 40-54 year age group. Older workers (55 plus) experience low levels of pressure. In contrast, work stress peaks in the 25-39 age group - the period of family formation and key career development. The effects of family are shown more directly by the data for those with and without children under 18 years. Those with pre-school children are found to experience the highest levels of work stress.

The survey researchers also examined the impact on stress of the above factors simultaneously. They also examined how workplace practices, employee involvement and consultation, and workplace change, impact on employee stress. This meant that the independent impact of each workplace or personal characteristic could be identified more clearly. The researchers concluded that while some factors outside the workplace are important for determining work stress, for example family commitments and gender, it is clear that organisations can make a difference. The first area of organisational influence is in the arrangement of working hours. Increasing hours of work were clearly linked to greater stress even when a range of other job characteristics were controlled. Offering employees the opportunity of flexitime is also found to reduce stress, but working from home and job sharing have the opposite impact (when hours are controlled). Introducing family-friendly policies also has a more general positive effect on employees’ stress. This may reflect a greater understanding of employees’ external commitments among employers who put such policies in place. Giving workers greater control and discretion over their jobs is also a key way of reducing stress. Involvement of workers in decision making has a positive impact on work stress if this is done through direct and regular consultation. Sharing of information also has a positive effect of reducing stress.

Three other Irish and European studies of the causes of stress sponsored respectively by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (the Fourth European Working Conditions Survey 2005: http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/ewco/surveys/ewcs2005/index.htm), the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work ("Research on work-related stress", T Cox, A Griffiths and E Rial-Gonzalez, April 2000), and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions ("Workplace stress in Ireland", J Armstrong, 2001) conclude that the main risk factors associated with workplace stress are related to deficiencies in the design and management of work. Some of the main risk factors identified from these three studies are compiled below:

  • Training and career development. A failure to provide employees with opportunities for career development, and adequate training to enhance their employability, may promote stress.

  • Failure to provide workers with significant autonomy and control over their day-to-day work tasks can promote stress. Trusting workers and "empowering" them to make decisions is more likely to promote a positive response than if management attempts to control everything.

  • Work intensification, long hours, and tight deadlines. Workers may become stressed when they feel they have no control over work pace, they work excessive hours, or they are under significant pressure to meet deadlines.

  • Poorly defined and designed work roles and tasks may cause stress. Clearly defined work roles, and variation in work tasks within work roles, are likely to alleviate stress.

  • Irregular work schedules. Unpredictable work schedules, particularly frequent changes in shiftworking, may cause stress.

  • Workers in insecure, "casualised" forms of employment are more likely to suffer stress.

  • Poor work environment. Physical features of the work environment, such as poorly designed workspace and poor ventilation, may promote stress.

  • An inadequate work-life balance. The failure to accommodate workers' interests and responsibilities outside the workplace is a significant cause of stress.

  • Insufficient staffing levels.

  • Exposure to workplace restructuring and "rationalisation".

  • Unhealthy interpersonal relationships. Worker's who are bullied, harassed or isolated, and who do not feel supported by managers or colleagues, may experience stress.

Q3 Work-related stress outcomes

Please provide information (including references to the sources or studies) on stress-related outcomes:

  • Individual outcomes (e.g. mental health illnesses, including depression and anxiety, and physical illnesses, such as cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), disabilities, fatigue and sleeping problems);

  • The social construction of stress by group of workers: can you provide references and main findings of research discussing this issue; factors acknowledged as stressful by some group of workers; groups which refer to stress or not to describe unsatisfactory situations

  • Organisational outcomes (effects that individual stress outcomes have on organisations, e.g. absence from work, job satisfaction, morale, level of commitment, productivity, and the impact of these outcomes on organisations’ costs, performance, or innovation capacity);

  • Labour Market or Societal level outcomes (the ‘costs’ to society of stress). This could include issues such as higher levels of unemployment and of recipients of incapacity benefits, costs to health and welfare systems, loss of productivity.

The three studies described in Q2 above conclude that workplace stress may have a number of negative consequences for both workers and employers, as follows:

  • Workers may abuse alcohol and drugs, and be more prone to accidents and physical and mental illness.

  • Workplace stress is increasingly an issue for litigation, which can entail significant costs.

  • Workplace stress causes millions of working days to be lost through "absenteeism" each year, which represents a significant cost to employers. Far more days are lost through workplace stress than through industrial action, a fact that is frequently overlooked.

  • Stress may promote higher labour turnover, and employers may have difficulty retaining staff.

  • Stress may cause workers to lose morale and become less motivated and committed, which may result in lower productivity.

  • Stress may promote increased industrial relations problems.

In addition, Ireland’s Small Firms Association (SFA) produces an annual absenteeism report. The SFA 2008 absenteeism report concludes that 5.3 million days were lost to absenteeism in small businesses in 2008, with an average of 6 days lost to absenteeism in small firms per annum. Stress is identified by the SFA as one of the main causes of absenteeism.

http://www.sfa.ie/Sectors/SFA/SFA.nsf/vPages/Press_Centre~sfa-absenteeism-report-2008-26-08-2008

Q4 Interventions on work-related stress management

What relevant information is available about interventions on work-related stress management and their effectiveness?

Are any interventions in place to prevent or manage work-related stress? If so, what kind of interventions are they? Please describe them making reference to coverage, effectiveness, since when they are in place, etc.

Work Positive is a comprehensive national state-sponsored risk management process operated by Ireland’s Health and Safety Authority (HSA) that incorporates a risk assessment covering the major causal factors associated with workplace stress. It was originally developed by Health Scotland and HSA Ireland to help organisations identify the potential causes of stress at work. Work Positive was launched in 2002 and a revised edition implemented in May 2005. It is the only state sponsored stress audit tool of its kind available across Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. The tool is concerned with weighing up, in some form of measurement, the perception among staff through a survey of what they judge to be levels of exposure to six defined aspects of the workplace. As it is not, for instance, a risk assessment for the carriage of dangerous goods, or for slips, trips and falls, it is concerned with risks from the interaction between the person and the workplace which could result in distress or mental health issues. Work Positive is thus a measurement tool for assessing the source of and possible levels of exposure of employees to six psychosocial hazards. The tool itself is more than just the survey - it is a process. It involves giving out a questionnaire (a 35 item questionnaire) to all employees to be filled-in on a confidential, voluntary basis. The collating of all responses gives a profile – at that point in time – of the organisation, based on the employees’ perceptions. The six items questioned are: demand, control, support (Manager and peer), relationships, role and change. These have been chosen based on research findings which suggest that where work-related stress is concerned, causal factors are associated, mainly, with these aspects of the work environment.

Which organisations are promoting these interventions? E.g. at national level (health and safety authority, labour inspectorate, social partners, government), at sectoral or at company level?

Ireland’s state Health and Safety Authority (HSA) promotes Work Positive at national level..

The Work Positive Project 2008–2009 is the most recent activity the HSA has engaged with in order to assist organisations to meet their risk assessment requirement where workplace stress is concerned. This most recent project started in May 2008, with the aim of targeting specific sectors in Ireland where workplace stress has been identified across Europe. These sectors are finance, public sector agency, education, health, local government. Invitations to attend an information seminar on workplace stress were sent out to over 500 such organisations. At these sessions, held in Dublin in May 2008, an outline of the project was given and attendees were invited to volunteer to be part of the project. Those who volunteered were then known as Work Positive partners for the duration of the project.

The project plan was as follows:

Inform all of the concept of Work Related Stress; a

Assess the Risks – through using the Work Positive survey tool; c

Consult and feedback the findings and organisational/dept profile; p

Put in place Control Measures-  training/education/coaching/system changes; m

Monitor and review – use Work positive every 18/24 months to ensure continual improvement.

 

It was agreed that the HSA provide support for all of the above for the purpose of theis project.

The initial aim was to have access to five organisations from each sector. However, in the finance sector, only one bank stayed with the project. This may be due to timing and the financial crisis, as in Sept and Oct 2008, 4 different finance organisations, having initially indicated strong interest, did not continue association with the project. As it was a voluntary system at the time, this was within their scope.

The 20 organisations who undertook the project received support, advice, resources and feedback from the Authority. However, according to the HSA, they also put in much effort and met many challenges themselves.

Are the interventions devised to be implemented at the primary (action on causes) / secondary (action on individuals) or tertiary (action on the consequences of stress) stage?

Work Positive is directed at the primary stage (action on causes).

Are any common instruments to measure stress at organisational level being used, developed, tested or assessed? Please describe them, indicating since when they are in place.

Yes. See Work Positive above, which was launched in 2002. Work Positive uses the following common instruments:

Inform all of the concept of Work Related Stress;

Assess the Risks – through using the Work Positive survey tool;

Consult and feedback the findings and organisational/dept profile;

Put in place Control Measures-  training/education/coaching/system changes;

Monitor and review – use Work positive every 18/24 months to ensure continual improvement. 

Please identify and describe up to three examples of good practice and their effectiveness in terms of stress management, with a special focus on the lessons learned. These can be at national, sectoral or organisational level.

See HSA site for Work Positive best practice case studies: http://www.hsa.ie/eng/Work_Safely/Workplace_Health/Workplace_Stress/Work_Positive_Projecct_2008_2009/Case_Studies/

Two examples of good practice from Work Positive are outlined below.

AMNCH – CASE STUDY

Adelaide and Meath National Children’s Hospital (AMNCH) is located in Dublin and employs approximately 3,200 staff.

Which group were involved?

The hospital theatre is seen as a stand-alone unit and local staff and management there believed that using Work Positive would provide a focus for employees in terms of profiling the work unit compared to other health settings. Senior hospital management expressed the view that it was a positive step to use the Risk Assessment in line with the HSA, to tackle absences and improve control measures of known workplace hazards, using the theatre as a pilot site within the broader hospital.

How did they set about carrying out the Risk Assessment (from now on referred to as Work Positive)?

Stage one: a meeting was set up with the HSA Psychologist and Maria Campbell, the Health Promotion Officer at AMNCH, as well as other stakeholders – Deputy CEO John O’Connell, Human Resource Manager, Health & Safety Manager, Occupational Health and Theatre Management.  At this initial meeting in early September 2008, the working patterns of the unit were discussed, the different staff groupings were agreed, a plan was outlined, time line set out (Sept 08 – May 09) , potential actions suggested and possible outcomes explained.  Staff was then consulted internally to get commitment. Once this was done, posters were made visible in the coffee and leisure areas around the theatre so that staff would become more familiar with the Work Positive system. Questionnaires were then printed distributed.

What happened next?Stage two: the questionnaires were collected, indicating a return rate of 55%. The returned questionnaires were analysed by the HSA on behalf of the AMNCH. Findings were then categorised for three groups – medics, nursing staff and ‘others’. Differences in the findings were noted and suggested interventions outlined.

How were the findings fed back?Stage three:  involved hosting a meeting with the hospital deputy CEO, the OH physician,  theatre manager,  HR manager, HPO and HSA Psychologist where results were explained and compared to other current results. Suggested rationales were discussed and next steps negotiated. Then feedback sessions were arranged with the theatre manager for all staff. Results were explained in the context of the work environment. Results were explained as potential hazards, not as direct causes of stress.  Letters were also disseminated with the results for those not present on that day.

Was that the entire project completed?

No. At this stage, the Risk Assessment was completed and fed back. The next phase is the Control Measures, which involves reacting to the results of the audit in Actions.

What were the Actions?

  • Different follow-up actions were needed.

Stress Management sessions were delivered to participants in January, and March 2009.

  • A further questionnaire was required to find out further what the medic group’s stress levels. They were then given the questionnaire to fill-out (16 items) and hand back to the HPO and get analysed by HSA.

  • Education sessions on Control were held, which dealt with the low perceived control levels in many health settings and issues around decision-making in safety critical areas with low control.

What worked well?‘Although it was challenging to get staff to participate in the project, the fact that they could see that such a project was taking place in their workplace had a positive impact in itself, though this effect would be hard to measure scientifically’.

What was the main challenge to the success of Work Positive? Lack of ring-fenced time dedicated to all different participants/staff in order to complete the questionnaire and then attend further sessions. However, this is due to service needs of the unit which marks it out as a difficult setting for projects such as this.

Is there any other support the HSA could give organisations to improve psychosocial risk assessments?

‘For this to be sustained, the HSA should offer training to staff in organisations who are involved in employee wellbeing insofar as how to use the tool and how to market it to all new and existing staff so that they know the assessment will be part of their work so that they expect the survey process and are comfortable with it.’

What is the overall outcome of participation in the project? The theatre has an up to date risk assessment done, records kept, all staff have increased self and environmental awareness, group’s sessions were held and staff were involved.  The medic group were further analysed to assess levels of work-related stress (WRS) among that group (as it is a transient high pressure area) to inform interventions for new recruits to that area (Non Consultant Hospital Doctors).

A second good practice Work Positive case study is ESB Telecoms

ESB TELECOMS

Founded in 1927, The Electricity Supply Board (ESB) is the semi-state company and the largest organisation responsible for the generation, transmission and supply of electricity in Ireland. The ESB Telecoms group, with 160 employees, is an amalgamation of ESB Telecoms Services and ESB Telecoms ltd., a fully owned subsidiary of ESB, established in 2001 to maximise the telecommunications potential of the ESB infrastructure, skills and expertise.

What sub divisions were chosen? The group felt it would be helpful to know the differences, if any, between those with tenure of more than 8 years and those with tenure of less than or equal to 8 years to inform development, training and recruitment activities. Different stressors would probably affect each so that the results of the audit would provide a focus for employees in terms of profiling the interventions for each grouping

How did it begin? The ESB Telecoms Partnership Group is formed from management and union representatives across the business. The Partnership Group, at its regular meetings, identified stress at work as being an important health, safety and wellbeing issue. The Health and Safety Authority Work Positive initiative, prioritising organisational stress and identifying the potential risks, was chosen as being the best option for the company.  ESB Telecoms decided to form a subgroup to progress the HSA Work Positive initiative. The project will also contribute to the company achieving OHSAS 18000 accreditation. (Occupational health and safety approved specification)

How did ESB set about carrying out the Risk Assessment (from now on referred to as Work Positive)?

Stage one: A meeting was set up with the HSA Psychologist, Patricia Murray, ESB project leads, the Health and Safety executive and the Telecoms Partnership group, some of whom are members of the Telecoms Safety committee.  At this initial meeting in Autumn  2008, the working patterns of the organisation were discussed, the different staff groupings were agreed, a plan was outlined, time line set out (Sept 08 – May 09) , potential actions suggested and possible outcomes explained.

Advertising posters (provided by the HSA) were pinned to local notice boards, E-mails and a leaflet along with an accompanying letter was sent to everyone so that staff  would become familiar with the Work Positive system. Staff were then consulted internally through the H&S Executive to get commitment. Once this was done, an initial presentation was hosted on workplace pressures, stress and coping by the consultant to the project, so that all staff would be aware of the general meaning being applied to stress and pressure prior to filling in anything. Then, in December 2008, staff were given a briefing presentation by the HSA Organisational Psychologist on the Work Positive process, the tool, the rationale for doing it, and the scheduling from then on, in terms of getting results and engaging with the risk assessment process. Staff the completed the questionnaire.

What happened next? Stage two: the questionnaires were collected, indicating a return rate of 75%. The returned questionnaires were analysed by the HSA on behalf of the ESB Telecoms. Findings were then categorised. Differences in the findings were noted and suggested interventions outlined.

How were the findings fed back?

Stage three started with a meeting of the Partnership Group and the HSA psychologist in February 2009.  Results were explained and compared to other current results, both within the sector and from other sectors. Suggested rationales were discussed and next steps negotiated. Then intervention activities were discussed as was a plan for feeding back results to staff and their representatives. Results were explained in the context of the work environment and staff invited to sessions hosted by the consultant to the project. Results were explained as potential hazards, not as direct causes of stress.

Was that the entire project completed?

No. At this stage, the Risk Assessment and some interventions are completed and all feedback is done. However, there remain on-going interventions which can now be attended to in-house both at local management level and through the Partnership Group.  The next phase is the environmental causes of stress, which involves reacting to the results of the audit in changes to the system of work where possible and monitoring the results of a new survey in 12-18 months.

What are the Actions?

Although results are positive, different follow-up actions are needed. Sessions were set up to focus group the findings for people in groups. These were facilitated by the independent consultant to the sect  These sessions occurred in December 2008 and January, February and March 2009.

A follow on session was held with the consultant and the implementation group in order to analyse the focus group contributions and to help us to decide on appropriate interventions which can be progressed.

The sub group has discussed required changes and are to formalise at the next full meeting of the Telecoms Partnership Group. Also, it is intended if possible we will have further interaction with our appointed consultant.

What worked well?‘It was a very effective tool and efficiently delivered. Well worth developing the system for on-going Risk Assessment purposes’.

This work Positive project underlined for us that ESB is a good place to work and has highlighted our requirement to reduce potential stress- causing practices.

What was the main challenge to the success of Work Positive?‘We feel we will need and benefit from more sessions, after this HSA sponsored project closes, with our consultant to close it out and also we will need to re-do the questionnaire so that it becomes a roll-over activity and embedded into our overall risk assessment process. This should be much easier for us second time round as we are now familiar with the process and will therefore find it easier to bring forward ourselves’.

Is there any other support the Authority could give organisations to improve psychosocial risk assessments?‘We unintentionally ran into very tight time scales due to starting it later than anticipated so it felt a little squeezed and that makes the process suffer a little. However, the survey was overall a success for us’.

What is the overall outcome of participation in the project?‘We have a Risk Assessment for the regulatory authorities, and doing this also serves us well within the broader ESB and where competing this is seen as a very real activity.  Our staff have also been made aware that workplace stress exists, that we recognise it and that it is not insurmountable, also how one copes, effects how one will deal with it and that the organisation has systems in place should they need assistance with regard to stress from work. Heightened awareness is itself has been a positive thing for us. We also now have our records kept and will keep this up for the future’.

Q5 Commentary

Please provide your own/your institution/centre view on work-related stress, referring to, for example, national debates about the topic or any other issue considered important from your national perspective which was not covered by this questionnaire.

In an Irish context, there is a lack of precise data on the extent of workplace stress. But the evidence that is available points to increasing stress levels and increased reporting of stress – for instance, more legal cases and occupational injury claims related to stress. T the main causes of workplace stress appear to be linked to deficiencies in the management and organisation of work, and to too little attention being paid to the interests and rights of workers. For instance, research has shown that employer attention to work-life balance, job autonomy and strong consultation policies can help reduce employee stress. In particular, many workers are finding it difficult to juggle the balance between the demands of work and their life outside the workplace. Many of the causes of workplace stress are linked to violations of the so-called ‘psychological contract’ between employers and individual workers. The ‘psychological contract’ is implicit and incorporates a number of reciprocal expectations and obligations that may develop between employers and workers in a particular workplace. Perceived employer violations of the ‘psychological contract’ may promote workplace stress, which, in turn, may have a number of detrimental consequences for both workers and employers, including: accidents and illness; chronic absenteeism; increased labour turnover; reduced commitment, morale and motivation; and lower productivity.

Tony Dobbins, NUI Galway

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