Workforce ‘stress crisis’ in Scotland’s colleges, says UNISON report

Colleges lose 50,000 working days due to workforce stress crisis, says a new UNISON Scotland report. UNISON has issued an S.O.S. to the Scottish Government about stressed out staff in Scotland’s colleges.

The SOS is part of a report: SOS Stressed Out Staff, Scotland’s Colleges Stress Report 2019, which has found that over 50,000 working days have been lost due to stress in Scotland’s colleges over the last 3 years. The report is published today (Sunday 9 June 2019)

The staff survey report shows that work related stress is having a severe impact on staff :

• 1,500 staff over 3 years have taken sick leave due to stress an increase of 37%.
• 60% felt that workloads are high or extremely high.
• 56% report stress directly due to workloads
• 69% of respondents felt that their stress issues were not dealt with in a satisfactory way and college management have failed to take work related stress seriously.
• 97% said managers hadn’t discussed Group Stress Risk Assessments and 73% stated that managers had never discussed work levels and stress with them.
• on average each college has 23 members of staff off with stress every year
• only 55% of colleges in Scotland have a specific avoidance of stress policy

This report comes days after Scotland’s spending watchdog Audit Scotland reported that financial challenges facing Scotland’s college sector have increased.

UNISON is calling on colleges to commit to working with the trade unions nationally on series of measures to address the stress crisis in Scotland’s Colleges. And calling on the Scottish Government to intervene to direct the employers to begin discussions on creating a national avoidance of stress policy and procedure.

Chris Greenshields, chair of UNISON Scotland’s further education committee said: “This report shows that workplace stress has reached critical levels in Scotland’s colleges and is still on the rise. Our members are struggling with workloads while continued cuts to staff numbers are being sustained as a means of finding ‘savings’.
“We warned colleges in 2016 about staff stress levels and the colleges have singularly failed to address this. We are now calling on the Scottish Government to intervene to direct the employers to begin discussions on creating a national avoidance of stress policy and procedure.”
Collette Bradley, Vice Chair UNISON Scotland’s Further Education Committee said: “It is astonishing that colleges deliver health and safety training, yet fail to implement the most basic of protections against workplace stress for the staff to whom it has a duty of care.
“Colleges are not even following their own procedures in ensuring that staff complete ISRA returns with only 10% completion rate and 73% of our members reporting that their managers have never had a discussion about stress and workloads – all the more concerning when 50,000 days have been lost due to stress in Scotland’s Colleges over the last 3 years – a rise of 40%.”
John Gallacher, UNISON Scottish Organiser said: “The Scottish Government must also increase the funding for our colleges to help provide the staff to meet the demands of our further education system in Scotland. Too many staff are struggling under the stress of the job and it is affecting the service provided to students. The constant pressure to do more work for more students is proving too much for too many staff. We must properly invest in our Colleges, to ensure staff can provide the world class education to their students.”
The full report can be read here:
Audit Scotland report can be read here:
UNISON contacts:
John Gallagher: 07904 342 426
Chris Greenshields: 07722 329223
Danny Phillips, communications officer: 07944 664110