The Government's £61bn boost for public services over the next three years has created a lot of excitement in the sector, with a growing expectation that it just might lead to better schools and healthcare provision.
But employers, unions and occupational health experts are becoming concerned about the strings that the Chancellor Gordon Brown has attached to the biggest sustained increase in public expenditure for 30 years.
Pressure on the public sector to deliver improved services is set to increase with funding being tied to reform and results. So, while Whitehall draws up 'demanding national targets' for the public sector, there is growing concern that the mood of excitement among staff could be transformed into stress.
Hugh Robertson, head of health and safety at Unison said: "There are huge reorganisations and changes going on in public services and they are a significant cause of stress. Public sector employers are just not addressing it."
Professor of organisational psychology and health at UMIST Cary Cooper claimed the high stress levels in the public sector are a result of the combination of long-hours culture, lowered job security, competing government initiatives and constant change is leading to high stress levels in the public sector, claimed.
Workers in large public sector organisations are absent for 12.9 days each per year. This is nearly a third higher than staff absence in the private sector, according to research by DLA MCG Consulting, and much of it is stress-related.
Furthermore, research by Zurich Municipal shows that two thirds of local government human resources staff believe they do not have the skills to help their authorities reduce stress. Four out of 10 respondents expect the number of stress-related claims to rise.
David Benson, personnel director of Shropshire County Council and chair of the Society of Chief Personnel Officers' employee support group, said: "Everyone is under increasing pressure in local authorities. The change agenda is moving things in the right direction, but employers need to be aware of the increasing burden of new performance targets and inspections.
"Employers have to keep an eye on the well-being of their staff," he said.
There are heavy costs associated with stress. It lowers productivity and increases sickness absence. The CBI estimates that sickness absence costs UK