Latvia: comparative analytical report on Work-related Stress”

  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 22 November 2010



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In Latvia stress related issues are field of research in social sciences; however on national level the monitoring work-related stress is still developing. The legislation prescribes necessary processes, obligatory for each employer to ensure the overall safety at work place. The data on work environment psychological and emotional factors is available in limited amount, published by the State Labour Inspectorate “Annual review”. The available statistics show, that in Latvia employees work longer hours in comparison to other Europe, the trend of mental stress has increased.

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.).

During last years work-related stress issue was not widely discussed at the national level. No special strategies, guidelines related to stress issues was drawn.

At enterprise level necessary health and safety level is ensured according to the legislation. According to the Cabinet Rules No.660 “Procedures for the Performance of Internal Supervision of the Work Environment” (adopted on 2nd October 2007), internal supervision of work environment in enterprise shall be performed by a labour protection specialist or, in small enterprise (less than 10 employees), the employer himself fulfils the duties of a labour protection specialist.

The Rules define work environment psychological and emotional factors: working hours, monotonous work, inability to influence the working procedures, work in isolation, increased responsibility, strained psychological atmosphere at work, violence.

Statistics describing above mentioned factors is available only in limited amount. There is one a most significant research “Work Conditions and Risks in Latvia”, carried out in 2005.

The Study “Work conditions and risks in Latvia” analyzed following:

  • policy plans regarding occupational health and safety;

  • cooperation schemes of respective institutions, information circulation

  • and overlapping functions of different organisations;

  • analysis and summarisation of the survey of employers, their representatives and employees;

  • objective assessment of working conditions and occupational risks;

  • working conditions the field of health care;

  • included elaboration of alternatives for occupational health and safety policy development.

The research also deals with job and working conditions satisfaction (N=2455) and provides factors contributing to low job satisfaction among employees. The research was based on several surveys and allowed analyse occupational risks, working conditions, health and safety issues. There were several questions included in the questionnaires: awareness on working conditions and occupational risks, special aspects of working conditions and occupational risks, working conditions within the respective enterprise, including working time.(p.46-47)

Other sources are State Labour Inspectorate annual reviews, describing dynamics of working conditions (occupational disease statistics, accidents at work), the research carried out by Mihails Hazans: Latvia. Working Too Hard? In 1999 and 2002 the Working Life Barometer (WLB) was published in the Baltic Countries.

The Barometer was a quantitative study, based on survey; the sampling method was a structured face-to-face interview (Latvia N=904). The target group consisted of working wage earners and entrepreneurs between the ages of 16 and 64. The study describes also working overtime, stress factors and conflicts.

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).

Official statistical data at national level is not available. The following trend is based on WLB research findings.

According to WLB research results (1999), in Latvia almost every second worker felt that work intensity is too high (p.98). In Estonia and Lithuania – more than 30% pointed out too high work intensity. In Latvia more than half of respondents worked overtime during one year. The work intensity caused increasing mental stress, which increased more in Latvia than in neighbour countries (47% of Latvian respondents said that mental stress had increased during the year) (p.106). Increased physical stress was detected: in average 40% of respondents felt the changes in last year.

The WLB research (2002) show the stabile picture: the working conditions regarding stress related issues were the same: 45% respondents pointed out that the work intensity is too high (p.151). 40% of respondents felt the increased mental stress at work. The trend in mental stress at work showed some decrease in comparison with 1998, however, the physical stress remain a significant issue – 37% of respondents felt increased stress during the last year (pp.157-161).

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).

According to legislation, the employer ensures the internal inspection of the work environment and detection of conformity to the requirements of regulatory enactments regarding labour protection not less than once a year.

The employer informs all employees and trusted representatives or representatives of employees regarding:

  • the work environment risk;

  • tasks and duties pertaining to internal supervision of the work environment (also, regarding the actions required in emergency situations);

  • labour protection measures;

  • the results of evaluation of the work environment risk, the conclusions made on the basis of such results, the plan of labour protection measures and the labour protection measures taken or to be taken a.o.

 

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

No statistics is available with focus on stress. According to the legislation, a normal working day is 8 hours long, however there are no restrictions regarding longer working day. Employee may work longer hours and employer must ensure higher pay for additional working hours according to the Labour Law.

The research of prof.Hazans “Latvia. Working Too Hard” shows that in Latvia employees work longer hours in comparison to other Europe. In 2003, 15 % of employees worked 50 or more hours per week in the main job; more than a quarter worked at least 45 hours. In 2007 according to the Labour Force Survey (Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia) for year 2007, in average about 64% employees worked 40 hours per week, but 20% more than 40 hours (N=30 thsd).

The latest statistics on work length is available for the first quarter of 2008: 15% of employees worked more than 40 hours and 60% -40 hours (N=6 thsd).

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.

Such statistics is not available

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.

Not obligatory. According to legislation (Labour Law), the employer must provide the supplementary payment for overtime work. According to the Law, everyone has an equal right to work, to fair, safe and healthy working conditions, as well as to fair work remuneration (sec.7., p.1).

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.

Depends on each enterprise, the necessary environment of working conditions are prescribed by legislation.

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

Such data is not available.

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.

Depends on each enterprise.

Conflicts of value and organisational justice.

Not available.

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

Labour protection, stress and safety issues in Latvia are regulated by the Labour Protection Law and Labour Law. These laws are mandatory for all Latvian companies. The contracts are based on obligatory points, prescribed by legislation.

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.

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);

According to the Study “Work conditions and risks in Latvia” (2005) 33.2% of respondents have or have had long-term health disorders, which negatively affect their everyday activities. Most often respondents mentioned chronic musculoskeletal health disorders (upper and lower back pain, aching joints) - 17.9%, cardiovascular and pulmonary disorders - 8.8% and neurological disorders (including headache, bad memory, memory loss, vertigo, arm numbness) – 8.3%. 58.8% of respondents believe that these disorders are related to working environment or working conditions, while additional 6.7% point out that disorders have started after an injury at work. Respondents having musculoskeletal disorders relate their problems to work even more often, i.e., working environment and conditions – 63.9%, workplace injuries – 9.8%.

One of the research conclusions is that in Latvia new occupational risks are rising - different psycho-emotional factors (shortage of time, overtime work, long working hours), ergonomic factors (work with a computer, handling of heavy objects, awkward posture, and repetitive movements) are the most significant occupational risks. Moreover, work environment measurements reveal that microclimate and dust (abrasive dust and welding fumes) should be considered as very essential occupational problems (p.3).

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

The Study “Work conditions and risks in Latvia” describes partly occupational risk factors of pregnant women. The survey (N=402) shows that this group of employees is most frequently exposed to stress, psychological and mental overload (55.5%), physical overload (44.0%), noise (35.6%), handling of heavy objects and cargos (22.6%), high and low temperatures (21.9%). Less than 10% of surveyed women mentioned other type of occupational risks.

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);

The Study “Work conditions and risks in Latvia” recognizes the fact of job dissatisfaction: higher rates of dissatisfaction are in manufacturing (37%), manufacture of basic metals, fabricated metal products, machinery and equipment (34%), manufacture of wood, products of wood and cork and furniture (30%). The low satisfaction is explained by low wages, high work load, poor and dangerous work conditions, lack of stability, lack of professional growth possibilities, overtime work, and lack of benefits.

The trend could be analysed over last years, based on current research about work conditions in Latvia. It is planned to publicise the results at the end of 2010.

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.

There are no detailed surveys and statistics available on current issues. In all cases of legal employment Latvian legislation establishing compulsory social insurance in respect of accidents at work and occupational diseases guarantees social security of employees. State Social Insurance Agency ensures to the employee, who has suffered from workplace accidents or an occupational disease, coverage of treatment, rehabilitation and other related costs, as well as compensation for permanent loss of working ability.

Calculations, based on statistical data of Central Statistical Bureau show average employee sickness costs: 0,7% in 2008 of total labour costs. .

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.

Employer must provide optimal working conditions for employee and provide control of risk factors at the enterprise according to the legislation (see P.1, Cabinet Rules No.660).

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?

At national level the State Labour Inspectorate provides the control of working conditions at company level. Inspectorate publishes annual reports on dynamics of working conditions in companies: health and safety issues, accidents at work, number of occupational diseases.

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?

Not relevant regarding stress issues.

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.

Not relevant

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.

Not relevant

Are there any public discussions and/or interventions that address specifically the identification, prevention and management of stress due to organisational change and restructuring? If yes, please summarise them.

Not relevant

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.

The work-related stress issues are quite important from secure and safety working conditions point of view. However, in Latvia they are not relevant on national level, especially in context of recession. The legislation prescribes necessary processes, obligatory for each employer to ensure the overall safety at work place. Work-related stress is not popular issue among researchers; the most topical questions are connected with influence of physical factors on working conditions.

There is a wide range of issues to be discussed, which presently in Latvia are discussed only with reference to experience and research results of “old” Europe or other developed countries.

Irina Curkina; Institute of Economics, LAS

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