Stress expectations of HR and health and safety staff too high

More than half of HR and health and safety staff believe too much is expected of them when it comes to trying to protect their workforces from stress.

The finding, in a survey undertaken by law firm Pinsent Masons, has emerged as two separate surveys have highlighted the growing toll that stress is taking on UK workers.

A poll by Norwich Union Healthcare, now Aviva, has suggested that more than half of UK workers are struggling into work when ill, working longer hours or skipping lunch breaks, with one-third offering to take on more responsibility.

Worryingly, nearly half admitted to suffering from insomnia, one-third said they had migraine attacks, and one-fifth said they had experienced anxiety attacks and palpitations.

Almost half of the GPs polled felt stress-related illness would be the most critical occupational health issue of 2009, with a similar number seeing more patients reporting alcohol or drug misuse and nine out of 10 expecting requests for anti-depressants dramatically to increase.

At the same time, a survey by Investors in People found that around one-third of employers believed stress was higher than a year ago, but also believed their organisations are not doing enough to tackle this.

The Pinsent Masons poll found eight out of 10 HR and health and safety professionals could identify specific costs to their businesses relating from stress.

But, more positively, the Norwich Union poll also suggested that more GPs were seeing improved attitudes by employers towards occupational health.

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