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STRESS TOO HIGH A PRICE TO PAY - ZURICH WARNS EMPLOYERS

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Employers are failing to heed the warning signs of stress and mental and emotional injury throughout the workplace ...
Employers are failing to heed the warning signs of stress and mental and emotional injury throughout the workplace according to Zurich Municipal whose figures show a 30% rise in stress related claims since last year.

The call for employers to reassess procedures for tackling work-related stress, anxiety or depression, coincides with this year's National Stress Awareness Day (7 November) - organised by the International Stress Management Association UK (ISMA UK). It aims to help employees and employers to better understand the implications of the latest guidance on workplace stress published earlier this year by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

In the public sector there have been a growing number of claims for mental and emotional injury. For example, a former social worker recently became one of several public sector employees who have sought and gained compensation for stress at work, claiming£140,000 for a stress-related illness.

The Confederation of British Industry's 15th annual absence survey 'Pulling Together', published in May 2001 reveals that public sector workers continue to be absent for more days than those in the private sector. An average of 10.2 days for public sector workers compares with 7.6 for private sector. The cost to British business, across the whole workforce, has reached a total of£10.7bn.

Zurich Municipal, has worked with a number of public service providers to carry out audits of employment practices, assist management in dealing with work related stress, and to provide stress counselling and legal advice helpline services for all members of staff. Practical suggestions for managers include:

* Show an open and understanding attitude to people who say they are under too much pressure - be prepared to listen

* Implement preventative measures such as stress policy, risk assessment, staff training, support and counselling

* Vary work conditions and flexibility and reassess workload

Claire Hickes, public service controller at Zurich Municipal, said:

'Stress in the workplace is a real cause for concern, not only because it results in higher levels of staff absence, but also because of a rising number of Employers Liability claims. There are numerous reasons for this increase - not least the increased pressure on public sector workers to improve services for local people.

'The important thing for employers is to be proactive. A review of employment practices will help ensure the right procedures are in place to improve morale and that support is provided for all employees.'

Note

* For further information on the employment practices audit, the 'Work Related Stress: Management Awareness Training Course', employment practices insurance or the stress counselling services and legal helplines, email: info@zurichmunicipal.com

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