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Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Commission wants to fight against stress issues at work

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News To fight against stress at work, workers' representatives signed an agreement in 2004 with minimum protection. The European Commission publishes an assessment of the impact of this agreement by studying the effects of efforts made by employers and workers.

Presenting the new report, László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, said he could see how a European agreement followed up by employers and workers at national level could concretely improve working conditions in Europe. He added that he knew stress could be a structural problem related to work organisation rather than to individuals, which is why the social partners are often best placed to take action in this area. He called on employers and workers to continue their positive work and address shortcomings, particularly in those countries where joint action has been limited so far. The 2004 social partner agreement – concluded by all cross-industry European social partners (Business Europe, UEAPME, CEEP and ETUC) – aims to raise awareness of work-related stress and provide a framework for action. The role of employers is to identify risk factors for stress and to try to match responsibility better with skills; consult workers on restructuring and new technologies; and to provide support to individuals and teams. The Commission's evaluation of the agreement concludes that the 2004 agreement has successfully triggered social dialogue and policy developments in the field of occupational stress in most Member States. The rules on work-related stress have been enshrined in different ways through collective or general social partner agreements, guidelines or legislation. In many countries, the social partners complemented action with effective awareness-raising campaigns and practical instruments, such as stress assessment tools and training. At the same time, the agreement has not been implemented evenly throughout Europe. Social partners in Malta, Cyprus, Poland and Slovenia have not reported on the follow-up to their commitments and results in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Estonia have fallen short of expectations. The report emphasises how improvements must be made across the board. According to social partners, while individuals are ‘well adapted to cope with short-term exposure to pressure’, prolonged exposure to stressful situations can do significant damage. The most important stress factors are work demands, room for manoeuvre, social relations, emotional demands, value and ethical conflicts and employment insecurity. Over time, these factors have increased. For instance, the share of workers reporting that they work to tight deadlines or at high working speed at least a quarter of their time rose from 50% in 1991 to over 60% in 2005 and has remained stable since then. Background In 2002, during a social partner consultation, the Commission highlighted the need for a minimum level of protection of workers against work-related stress building on the general provisions of the EU Health and Safety Framework Directive (Directive 89/391/EEC). The European social partners chose to deal with this through a European autonomous framework agreement, as provided for by Article 155 of the Lisbon Treaty. These agreements can be implemented either through EU legislation or via the action of national affiliates of EU social partners, in line with traditions and practices specific to each Member State. At EU level, there are four agreements implemented by workers' and employers' representatives covering telework, stress at work, violence and harassment and inclusive labour markets. The agreement on stress at work is the second agreement of this kind..

Source :  Press room - European Commission


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