Earlier this year Scottish Hazards submitted requests under Freedom of Information seeking information on stress and mental ill health across a number of public bodies, we asked questions relating to staffing levels before and after the economic crash, general sickness absence, sickness absence related to stress, if an organisational risk assessment had been carried out and what steps they were taking to look after the mental health of their workers.
Of the 159 requests submitted, 96 provided full or partial responses, 63 provided costs for overall sickness absence of £421m for 2017/18, only 44 could break down costs relating to mental ill health. This amounted to £112.5m for 2017/18. A smaller number could identify costs relating to work stress. A separate calculation but included in these figures was carried out for health boards using the responses provided as well as information retrieved from the NHS Information Services Division, this is explained in the sections covering health boards.
Thirty organisations reported losing a combined total of 336,000 working days because of work-related stress.
Scottish Hazards believes these costs and the figure of days lost to be significantly underestimated due to lack of information held by employers on sickness absence costs and the number of large organisations that chose not to respond in any way to our requests.
There was a general increase in staff employed in leisure trusts, universities, colleges, schools outwith local authority control, health boards.
There was a reduction only in Local Government, in the 19 authorities that could provide information staffing numbers have reduced by 41,704 between 2005/06 and 2017/18.
Very few respondents could provide costs specifically relating to workplace stress. Stress and mental ill health caused by work is included in sickness absence reporting in most organisations as part of a broader category including anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions.
From the information provided Scottish Hazards would suggest only 37% of the employers are carrying out adequate risk assessments using the HSE Management Standards, Work Positive or other appropriate stress risk assessment tool. This is substantially lower than the views expressed by health and safety reps in the TUC survey where 46% of reps felt risk assessment were adequate.
Scottish Hazards wants to work with trade unions to ensure all public sector employers implement the HSE Stress Management Standards, they cannot afford not to!!