Headlines: October 11th, 2001

The Health and Safety Executive has bowed to pressure from UNISON, the largest public sector union, and withdrawn its leaflet for employees on work related stress. The union claimed that the leaflet did nothing to help employees identify and remove the causes of stress, but instead encouraged them to consider changing jobs. The union wrote to all its branches and asked them to ensure that the leaflet was not distributed.UNISON received support from many sources in its claim that the leaflet gave the wrong message. They included the TUC, health & safety professionals and also from a number of employers’ who refused to use the leaflet.

The leaflet featured in Publicnet Abstracts on 9 July 2001. It explains that work related stress is a symptom of an organizational problem and not an individual weakness. It is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them. It is not an illness but can lead to increased problems with ill health. If it is prolonged, or particularly intense, it can lead to physical effects such as heart disease or back pain. One in five people in the workplace in the UK experience work related stress.