Work stress on the rise and job security must be broached, research shows

05 July 2016 The latest British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey of 3,000 Britons has revealed that work is becoming more stressful in the UK.

5 Jul 2016| News

05 July 2016

The latest British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey of 3,000 Britons has revealed that work is becoming more stressful in the UK.

More than a third – 37% – of workers experience stress at work “always” or “often” compared with 28% in 1989, and this issue is most likely to be a problem for professional and managerial workers between the ages of 35 and 44.

The researchers linked this trend to a pattern of work intensification, in which bosses are demanding more of their workers at faster pace. The willingness of workers to adapt to this higher strain is likely to be influenced by a perception of job insecurity since the recession and employers’ lower confidence in adding to their staff in economically unstable times.

Indeed, younger people are facing the greatest challenges in finding secure jobs, with only 65% if those below the age of 40 in paid work compared with 78% of those aged between 40 and 59, suggesting that employers are retaining existing staff but failing to offer stable positions to new recruits.

It was also noted that some groups are faring much worse than others, in particular those in the lowest social classes, who are less likely to have positive experiences of work and encounter less favourable terms and conditions at work.

Adding to this inequality is Britain’s continued wage gap, with a wide disparity between the incomes of the highest and lowest earners. The BSA noted this was associated with a fall in trade union membership.

“Conditions in the lower half of the income distribution seem to be strongly linked to the decline of unionisation for lower-skilled jobs,” the report stated.

Meanwhile, 92% of respondents said that job security was either “important” or “very important” but only 65% reported feeling secure in their current job.

The BSA recommended job security as a target for the governmental intervention, pointing out that the move towards causalised labour, such as in the rise of zero-hour contracts, should be a focus.

“On the basis of our analysis, one area that remains of particular concern is that of job insecurity,” the BSA concluded.

“There has been no perceived increase in job security between 2005 and 2015, and yet this is one of the most desired features of jobs … This therefore represents a potential area for action for our representatives at Westminster.”

Indeed, these issues have been the focus of the IER’s recommendations for the reform of employment law in our recent Manifesto for Labour Law, which has gained the support of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and on which Jeremy Corbyn will speak this Friday (08 June 2016).

In our 25 policy recommendations for the next Labour Government, we advise reinstating a Ministry of Labour to oversee a progressive reform in the way the labour market is organised, including a greater trade union presence to provide a stronger voice for workers in the UK.

Through the reinstatement and state support of sectoral collective bargaining across the economy, we could improve conditions across the economy to provide better quality and more stable jobs for our workers while decrease the wage gap between the highest and lowest paid.

Read more about our Manifesto and purchase your copy