Union reveals results of stress survey

The results of a recent survey by the Manufacturing Science Finance (MSF) trade union, announced in October 1997, have led the union to call for a campaign to reduce stress at work.

On 7 October 1997, the Manufacturing Science Finance (MSF) trade union, which represents skilled and professional workers, announced the results of a survey in which it was revealed that stress within the workplace is on the increase. The union is calling for action by employers to reduce stress in the workplace and has been joined in its call by government environment minister, Angela Eagle.

The survey indicates that stress within the workplace has doubled over the last five years. The union says that 130 million days are lost every year through stress-related illnesses, which amounts to the equivalent of one week off for every working person in the country. Other claims made by MSF on the basis of the survey are as follows:

  • management style and working conditions are the biggest cause of stress;
  • eight in ten people say there is a major stress problem in their workplace;
  • eight in ten people say that stress is worse than it was five years ago; and
  • stress-related illness costs the UK economy GBP 7 billion per year.

The union is now busy organising a series of seminars in major cities throughout the country to draw attention to the stress suffered by people at work. The conferences are intended to enable workplace union representatives to identify the causes of stress and to negotiate its reduction or removal from work.

Roger Lyons, MSF general secretary, said that: "stress is the workplace disease of the 1990s. Stress can kill and the sooner employers, government and trade unions form a partnership to deal with preventing the problems of stress, the safer our places of work will be."

The union prides itself in leading the way in the fight against the problems that stress can cause. It began highlighting the problem as early as 1983. Now the union hopes to further the campaign by attempting to tackle the causes - the "stressors" - rather than just dealing with the symptoms.

Delegates at the 22-24 October conference of the Institute of Personnel and Development, which represents personnel managers, were told by Jill Earnshaw, a lecturer in employment law at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, that employers find the area of stress particularly difficult to deal with. They were advised that they should attempt to put in place preventative measures designed to diminish the risk of stress-related illness. These should include restructuring jobs, policies against bullying and harassment, training for line management, matching people to jobs and examining corporate culture.

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