Stress, What's That?

Christine Hosein

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?