Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 4 September 2004

Stress At Work - The Facts

WHILST THE government is content to sit back and watch the right-wing media peddle lies about civil servants, it is well aware of what life is really like for the vast majority of its workforce.

Bernie Lyons

The PCS civil service union has recently published the Whitehall II study which sheds light on the findings of extensive research into the health of over 14,000 civil servants.

University College London (UCL) is carrying out the study, which was begun in 1985 and was asked jointly by the Cabinet Office and the Council of Civil Service Unions to produce a plain English version of the findings to date.

The study quashes the myth that those in the most senior positions in the workplace are more likely to suffer from stress and other illnesses.

Though there was shown to be a strong relationship between health and employment status, it is those in the lower grades of employment who are at far more risk of both physical and mental illness. The more senior you are in the employment hierarchy, the longer you are likely to live.

Little control

In particular danger are workers who face high demands but have little control over their work, regardless of the 'type' of person they are. The study highlights employer and manager support as one way to reduce sickness absence.

Working hard was not considered to be stressful in itself. But high levels of stress were found in those who were not appropriately rewarded through esteem, financial remuneration and career opportunities such as job security and promotion prospects. It showed that those who believe they are subject to unjust procedures and unfair treatment are also more likely to become ill.

Organisational change was highlighted as an area which poses particular risks for the workers involved. It is suggested that change often provides only limited business benefits, at a cost of reducing loyalty, motivation and morale in the workplace. Job insecurity was found to affect workers even after the threat to their job had disappeared. Increased levels of sickness were related to frequent changes, including reorganisation, privatisation and threat of redundancy. Temporary employment too was found to be associated with an increase in premature death.

UCL says that: "Reduction of health inequalities is the current priority for government". However, the reality for civil servants is one of massive job cuts and government attacks on the working conditions of the lowest paid.

This is most obvious in the Department for Work and Pensions, where Chancellor Gordon Brown has promised that 30,000 staff will soon lose their jobs. The government has also introduced a performance pay scheme which discriminates against the most disadvantaged and those on the lowest pay.

Working environment

Of course, the implications of the study extend to other workplaces and to society as a whole. It concludes that patterns of behaviour are conditioned by the environment in which people live and work.

It shows evidence that health is strongly influenced by the work environment, social influences outside work and influences from early life. As it acknowledges, this: "Leads to the uncomfortable (for some) finding that inequalities in health cannot be divorced from inequalities in society."

Of course, the most significant disadvantage for those at low grades is low income. Those on low pay have far less control over things like the place where they live, the food they and their families eat and the types of leisure and social activities in which they can take part.

In other words, low-paid workers experience stress both at work and as result of it. The effects of the conditions experienced during the working life, were also found to continue into retirement. Those who are better off typically report a more satisfying retirement period, with a better standard of health.

PCS is aware of what the findings of this research means for its members and is calling on the government to ensure that illness and work-related stress in particular is avoided in the first place, rather than attempting to solve the problem after it has arisen. Members of other trade unions should put pressure on their leaders to do the same and make it plain to employers that they will not be allowed to damage and disregard the health of those who do the work for them.

Less Hours, Higher Productivity

A RECENT survey by Deloitte has found that France and Germany, where workers have the shortest working week in Europe, are the most productive economies in Europe.

The growth of productivity in Britain has been slower, now below the EU average.

Productivity is a measure of the output per worker. And output is obviously dependent on the amount of investment in plant and machinery the bosses are prepared to make.

The bosses argue that workers should work longer hours for less money to protect profits.

We argue that working hours are not the problem, it's the profit system.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 4 September 2004:

End The Occupation Of Iraq

US Imperialism Further Weakened In Iraq

Mass Protests Greets Bush And Republican Convention

Mark Thatcher And The 'Dogs Of War'

Socialist Party campaigns

Defending the 35-hour week: The Profit System's The Problem, Not The Workers

Stress At Work - The Facts

Picketing Wembley Stadium

Young workers fight to End Low Pay

Low Pay Campaign Taps Into Anger

Scottish nursery nurses: How Our Strike Changed Me

Firefighters' dispute: Employers Climb Down

We Need Your Cash!

International socialist news and analysis

Haiti: A History Of Struggle


Joe Higgins: Speaking Tour Of Australia

Che Guevara, Motorcycle Diaries, directed by Walter Salles


Home   |   The Socialist 4 September 2004   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleTories raid 1bn from NHS facilities budget - unions must act

triangleTragic death exposes criminal understaffing of NHS

triangleNHS - build the fightback

triangleLeicester NHS protest

triangleLabour NHS rally reveals horrors but offers no way forward


triangleGCSE grading game stresses out students - even more than before!

triangleTeacher recruitment falls by a third - cut workload, not funding

triangleTory prescription for mental illness: stress and bureaucracy

triangleOne in four teenage girls depressed - crisis made worse by cuts


triangleGerman engineering strike puts shorter week on agenda - but could have won more

triangleAfter 80 strike days Mears workers achieve victory

triangleI'm now a 'manager' and I can barely manage!


triangleMay's "war on plastic" still puts profits before the planet

triangleCarbon dioxide hits 800,000-year high: end profit-driven pollution

Civil Service:

trianglePCS executive agrees next steps in pay campaign

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Lecturers strike around country in defence of pensions



German engineering strike puts shorter week on agenda - but could have won more



Cardiff Refugee Rights gig success



Nottingham hospital black alert


East Midlands

Lively discussion at East Midlands Socialist Party conference


West Midlands

Tremendous determination on show at West Midlands conference



Successful Socialist Party Wales conference sets tone for the year ahead



Bradford protests against kids' service cuts


May Day

May Day, May Day! Celebrate solidarity!



Labour councillors push through savage cuts in Kirklees budget



Save Salford nurseries!



Victory: Pontllanfraith leisure centre saved



Northants council crisis - protesters demand an end to cuts and privatisation



Leicester Uni makes Tory fee tripler David Willetts chancellor - sack Willetts!



Bosses divided - university pension strikes can win!

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

February 2018

January 2018