The drive for better quality public services is being reflected in higher stress levels. Zurich Municpal, the leading provider of risk management services and advice to the UK public sector, has reported a 30% rise in stress related claims since last year. Typical of a growing number of claims for mental and emotional injury was a social worker who was awarded 140,000 pounds for a stress related illness. One in five people in the workplace in the UK experience work related stress.The Confederation of British Industry’s annual absence survey published in May 2001 revealed that public sector workers continue to be absent for more days than those in the private sector. An average of 10.2 days compared to 7.6 for the private sector.
Because of the concern about stress in the workplace and the impact it has on employees, absence rates and liability claims, the International Stress Management Association UK has organized a National Stress Awareness Day on 7 November 2001. The aim is to help employers and employees to understand better the guidance issued by the Health and Safety Executive in July 2001. The guidance 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. It can also lead to psychological effects such as anxiety or depression.