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Workers' and employers' agreement is helping to deal with stress at work

24/02/2011
Young man with strong migraine © Catalin Petolea, under license of Shutterstock.com

The Commission has published an evaluation of the 2004 social partners agreement on work-related stress, concluding that it has had positive effects where implemented.

Although the agreement has not been implemented evenly throughout Europe, 19 EU countries now have legislation or binding collective agreements that address stress or other psychological risks at work.

Over the last ten years, work-related stress has increased in nine EU countries and has only fallen in Sweden. Studies suggest that between 50% and 60% of all lost working days are related to stress. In France for example, the cost of stress has been reported to reach at least €2 to €3 billion each year. In the UK it's estimated that 10 million working days are lost due to anxiety, stress and depression linked to work. The direct costs related to stress at work are now estimated to be as high as 4% of EU GDP.

In response to these developments, 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 it has successfully triggered social dialogue and policy developments in the field of occupational stress in most EU countries.

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.