We are living in a world of the S word. It never ceases to amaze me that, even in the current climate of employer 'care and concern' for the well-being of workers, large corporations and smaller firms in the City of London can be indiffrent to the effects of stress on staff despite a hyper-sensitivity about their image and business reputation. Just imagine how stunned I was, when a human resource manager told me, a former health service professional myself: “Don’t tell the staff their stress could be work-related”.
I was even more baffled, when a previous line manager, who is a well-respected general practitioner and occupational health doctor, used similar words. It seems that health care companies that are hired by businesses in the city are almost colluding with this delusion that “their staff” are not affected by stress.
Another colleague of mine who has the pleasure (not!) of working as an occupational health nurse advisor, to a large investment bank in the city, was told, in no uncertain terms when writing her report back to Human Resources, to omit any thing that makes references to work-load and work stress. This has become common knowledge among some companies that provide occupational health services in the city of London.
Barbara, an articulate nurse with at least 10 years experience in the occupational field, says“ It has always been this way, usually doctors and account managers from these out-sourced health care companies will write what ever they are told to by the HR departments. It is about keeping the client happy.”
She continues: “ Stress brought on by workplace bullying in investment banks is common and well-known in the industry. But, the HR departments do not want documented evidence of this, so as to prevent personal injury claims by disgruntled employees. Large investment banks, are known to offer out of court settlements to avoid grievances that can lead to employment tribunals.'
Another colleague of mine, whom I will call N, who was recently sacked by a healthcare provider to a bank near Liverpool Street, says: “Usually the employee has been off sick for a while, the nurses will call up the employee at home, only to be told that they do not work for the bank anymore. HR would then confirm that they have reached a mutually agreed sum, so that, the employee can then go and find other work.”
We are told by the Health and Safety Executive that the cost of stress to UK businesses is close to £3.7 billion a year, with up to 13 million days lost. I cannot help but wonder, if these figures are accurate given the alleged malpractice by some occupational health companies. What is astounding is how these companies treat their own staff. Angela, a 35-year-old occupational health nurse agrees. “ These companies are so busy pleasing the banks that they forget that we have our own stress due to heavy workload and unrealistic demands placed on us by the account managers.”
So, for some occupational health nurses working in the city, the struggle continues, as not only are they 'bullied' into writing what is acceptable to these large corporations, they also experience bullying from their own employers (the healthcare companies).Could things be any worse?