An article that caught our eye in the last few days was the survey undertaken by the Guardian newspaper regarding stress in the public sector. The results certainly will not be a surprise to many in HMRC.
The article clearly focuses on NHS staff and workers in frontline social care situations who understandably, in the current climate, are subject to serious issues with regards to stress in their everyday work environments but the general theme applies to HMRC. Budget cuts , staff “efficiencies” , increasing bureaucracy and additional demands placed on staff make for a work/life balance that is problematic to say the least. The July Budget and Spending Review coupled with BoF are unlikely to provide respite.
The pressure on managers to tackle Average Working Days Lost ( AWDL ) has inevitably meant that flexibility is diminished to allow practical solutions to staff stress and sick leave. It is a fact that the vast majority of sick leave is attributable to stress at work which results in physical and psychological symptoms and this has not diminished over many years. All too often we see ( and have to intervene to help ) staff being subject to additional stress and pressures which increase sick leave. This vicious circle has not solved or practically reduced sick leave in most instances and has the additional factor of causing negative impacts on managers as well.
There is a need to take a far more holistic and empathetic approach to stress and the problems it causes at work. That must be done at departmental level first and foremost to establish the high level approach that can then be adjusted for particular sections. That said , it must not be subject to being “ignored” , “changed completely” or “used in a negative way” when rolled out – as has far to often been the case in many such initiatives in the past.
Tackling this perennial problem should be a priority of the employer and the workforce. It is a priority for the RCTU.