Thousands of workers are talking their way out of a job, with voice loss threatening the livelihood of one in 50 call centre workers, Unison has warned.
Delegates at the the public sector union’s energy conference in Glasgow heard that voice loss already costs the country £200m a year, with the figure set to double in the next 10 years as the number of call centres increase.
UK call centres, which employ 860,000 people, receive three million calls a day adding up to 43 billion minutes a year. The pressure on staff to deal with calls as quickly as possible means the industry suffers from a 25% turnover rate each year.
Summer can be a catalyst for voice problems where offices are hot and stuffy or where air conditioning dries out the atmosphere, Unison said.
There is no legal maximum temperature for offices, although overheating can be just as damaging to workers’ health as cold, and Unison said it would like to see this loophole closed.
Unison official Shane Ollivro, who works for EDF Energy in Exeter, told delegates: “Members come to me with voice-loss problems who have been told by their consultants to rest their voice, but when you have 4,000 customers a day who need talking to that’s a real problem.
“I would like to see voice coaches on every staff induction course to give advice and guidance to new staff on how to protect their voices from long-term damage. This is a serious problem and needs to be dealt with before it gets out of control.”