Further and higher education staff report stress levels are on the increase

Employees in the further and higher education sector are suffering from rising stress levels and believe management are contributing to the problem, a union survey has revealed.

A study of 1,000 workers in the sectors by the University and College Union (UCU) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), found the main sources of work-related stress were hitting targets and deadlines, long working hours, increased workloads and frequent changes of timetables or courses.

More than 80% of respondents reported that their overall workloads had increased in the past three years. The same proportion felt that this had directly or indirectly increased their stress levels.

Eighty two per cent of respondents said their institution had a management culture which ‘actively contributed to stress’. Only 15% thought management ‘sought to address the causes’ of stress.

Frequent symptoms of stress reported were poor sleep patterns (46%), exhaustion (39%) and anxiety (35%).

The UCU warned that it was “actively seeking” legal test cases on excessive hours and employers breaching their duty of care to staff.

Roger Kline, head of equality and employment rights at the UCU, said: “Across the whole of post-16 education, stress is now at epidemic levels. We have warned for a long time that something has to be done, but this survey suggests things have deteriorated still further.”

A statement from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) said: “It is incorrect to suggest that higher education institutions – as responsible employers – are not addressing the issue of stress at work. UCEA recently held seminars covering this important topic and sector-wide Health and Safety Executive stress ‘roadshows’, which have only just finished.”


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