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TUC: Workplace bullying on the rise in highly stressed public sector

Stress is the biggest concern for UK workers and is particularly prevalent in the public sector, the latest biennial Trades Union Congress (TUC) survey of union health and safety reps shows.

Over 1,000 reps took part in the survey and were asked to name the top five hazards that affected their workforce.

Public sector reps were more likely to name stress than those in the private sector, which the TUC linked to the pressure of an increased workload combined with spending cuts.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “The message from the shop floor is clear: stress is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. Pressures of long working hours and low job security are being felt in workplaces across the UK.

“It’s in no-one’s interests to have overstretched workforces. People who experience high anxiety are less productive and are more likely to take time off. Stress is preventable if staff have reasonable workloads, supportive managers and a workplace free from violence, bullying and harassment.”

Stress levels in central government were so high that 93% of reps said it was a common concern. This was followed by 89% of education reps and 82% of health services reps.

In fact, the public sector uniformly has higher rates of concern than the private sector over “psycho-social hazards” – including stress but also bullying/harassment and violence and threats. There has been a widening gap in concern about violence and threats between the two sectors over the last two years. This is because there has been a substantial rise in concern in the public sector, where 30% of safety representatives noted it as a top-five concern, compared with 22% in 2014.

Overall stress was the most common concern, with 70% of reps naming it as a problem, a three percentage points growth from 2014. It was the biggest concern in all 11 regions featured in the survey. The highest increase in reports was in Northern Ireland (from 65% to 78%), followed by the North (67% to 78%) and Scotland (66% to 74%).

A recent Unison survey found that 54% of local government workers said stress had affected their job performance and 52% said it had affected their personal life.

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