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Is work making you sick?

In the past accidents and physical illnesses were the main causes for concern when it came to welfare at work - but now it’s the emotional welfare of workers that’s the biggest worry. Stress accounts for 14% of sickness leave. 80 million working days are lost each year due to stress and that’s costing British industry £5.3 Billion. So what’s causing the stress?
For many people it’s the workload. Do you feel you are being asked to do more than your fair share? Perhaps you are because you get through more work in the time given than your colleagues or because you work to a higher standard. It could be that you are struggling while your colleagues are coping with the same workload. Some people do find they’re trying to do work that isn’t right for them and rather than being treated unfairly they need to change jobs.
We spend more time at work than our European counterparts - often feeling that if we aren’t seen to be at our desks at all hours we’re in danger of losing our jobs. That insecurity is stress inducing but working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean being more productive and many people are also suffering stress through not having enough time at home. Whatever the problem, if you keep struggling to deliver without telling anyone you’re under pressure they won’t realise there’s a problem until it’s too late.
For other people the stress is caused by unfair treatment of a different sort - such as bullying, victimisation, discrimination or harassment by colleagues or bosses. Perhaps you feel that you’re being passed over for promotion because of your race or are being paid less than colleagues because of your gender. There are laws to protect you and if you are experiencing this kind of treatment get advice on your legal rights.
Many people won’t speak up about unfair treatment because they’re worried about the possibility of being sacked if they do. You shouldn’t be sacked if you ask for something to which you are legally entitled - such as the minimum wage, paid holiday or written terms and conditions of employment. If you do demand your rights and are sacked for your pains get advice. You may well be able to bring a successful claim against your employer at a tribunal.
Once you’ve been working for a firm for a year - if you’re sacked for something other than gross misconduct or because your job is disappearing - you may have been unfairly dismissed and again have a good case to make a claim. Gross misconduct includes things like having your hand in the till or harassing or bullying a colleague. You boss should go through disciplinary and grievance procedures which give you the chance to put your side of the story rather than just being sacked out of the blue. If your boss asks you to attend a disciplinary hearing you do have the right to be accompanied by a union representative or a colleague.
The number of applications to employment tribunals has doubled in the last 10 years - to 118,400. The maximum amount of compensation you could be awarded for unfair dismissal is £51,700. Employers don’t want to have claims made against them so most are more aware of the rights of their employees and are very concerned to protect their welfare. They’d rather know if you have complaints about the way you’re being treated. There’s also an implied term in all contracts of employment that employers must deal with grievances properly and in good time.
At any stage, if you feel you are being unfairly treated, find out where you stand. Talk to your personnel department. If there isn’t one is there a union representative? Many smaller businesses don’t have anyone other than the boss to talk to but your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau or Law Centre will be able to help on all aspects of employment law. Their details are in the phone book. Don’t suffer unfair treatment in silence. The chances are that if there’s a problem those who could do something about don’t realise and that once they do realise it can be sorted. And if you don’t speak up the stress could put you on that sick list.
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