Work Related Stress in Ireland – Facts and Figures
Stress in the workplace is an issue of growing concern. There is an increasing recognition that job stress has significant implications for the physical and mental well being of workers and costs for employers and the economy. The British Health and Safety Executive estimates the cost of work related stress, anxiety and depression to be in the region of £5.2 billion in the UK for the year 2013/2014. Health and Safety legislation in Ireland, and the EU more widely, specifies that employers have a duty of care to ensure that the safety, health and welfare of employees are not unreasonably compromised by work. The duty of care extends to personal safety and the mental health of workers.
Work related stress among employees in Ireland doubled between 2010 and 2015, according to a new study by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ERSI), funded by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA). Its findings suggest that 17% of the workforce experienced stress in 2015, up from 8% in 2010 – one of the steepest increases among the ten western European countries surveyed. However, the Irish figure was still below the 19% average.
Employees were deemed to be experiencing job stress or word related stress if they reported experiencing stress “always” or “most of the time”, along with reactions to stress such as general fatigue, anxiety and sleep disturbance. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of Irish workers experiencing one or more stress reaction increased from 21% to 38%.
Workers most likely to report stress were in the health sector (18%), public administration (16%), and manufacturing (15%) – while retail and construction showed the lowest levels of stress. 20% of technical/associate professionals report stress, 16% of professionals, and 14% of managers.
Work related stress was most likely to be triggered in Irish employees by emotional demands – including dealing with angry customers or clients or being forced to hide their feelings.
ESRI and HSA’s Perspective on Work Related Stress
The ESRI says the report carried out in conjunction with the HSA highlights the importance of Irish firms having policies in place to deal with workplace stress among employees. It cites the health implications of stress, which can include cardio-vascular disease, depression, as well as consequences including absenteeism, increased job turnover and reduced morale. However, only 40% of employers have policies in place to address workplace stress. The ESRI says that action is urgently needed to address psycho-social risks such as bullying, harassment and violence, as well as high levels of emotional demands and time pressure.
To assist employers manage work-related stress, the HSA, in conjunction with the State Claims Agency, developed the ‘Work Positive’ online tool. The tool helps employers to implement a structured and collaborative approach to managing work related stress. With employees at the heart of the process, the free tool provides clear guidance for employers to design and implement focused action plans and interventions.
How can we help?
The Pegasus Legal Register provides summaries of, and practical implications on, relevant guidance and legislation on work-related stress. The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 sets out the roles and responsibilities of employers in preventing mental and physical ill-health among workers. Under Part 2, Section 8 of this Act, employers have a general duty to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure the health and welfare of their employees, including protecting against any personal injury to mental health arising from job stress.
Other relevant legislation in this area is the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, which lays down minimum provisions for leave from work and maximum limits on hours of work to ensure that workers are not subjected to excessive work demands and that they have adequate rest periods. Additionally, in accordance with the HSA’s Work-related stress: a guide for employers, employers must ensure that the risks of job-related stress are assessed and managed.