Rushing to put out a blaze. Breaking up a nasty fight. Resuscitating an unconscious pedestrian. If you were asked which of these situations was the most stressful, you’d be hard pressed to choose between them. No wonder, then, that frontline staff in the emergency services report high levels of stress.
A study by Cartridge People in 2019 found that over 15 million days are lost every year due to employees suffering from work-related stress. Over 500,000 people in the UK feel ill as a result of the level stress they get in their work environment. The occupations and industries reporting the highest rates of work-related stress, depression or anxiety remain consistently in the health and public sectors of the economy, found by 2019 HSE statistics.
As government cuts continue to demand that our emergency services do more with less, frontline staff are finding themselves being stretched further and further. For many, this means more overtime, shorter lunch breaks, and less choice over when they can take their holiday.
As the cuts continue and long hours grow through the months of COVID-19, it has recently been announced that there will be a pay rise for people working in the public sector. Nearly 900,000 workers will benefit from this across the country, including those who work in the emergency services. Doctors, teachers and police officers will be among those receiving above inflation pay rise for their effort during COVID-19.
These jobs are inherently challenging, but the additional burdens of renewed public scrutiny and belt-tightening are pushing many police officers, firemen and health workers to breaking point. So what can be done?
Public sector organisations aren’t necessarily to blame for these problems. However, by being aware of the heightened risk posed to their employees, they can help to mitigate stress and help their staff feel better.
Consultation is an important part of this process. If employees have no natural avenue through which to express their feelings, their stress is far more likely to go unchecked, increasing the chances of a poor morale, resignation and breakdown.
The Mind organisation have put together a ‘Blue light programme’ which is aimed at reducing stigma, promoting wellbeing and improving mental health support for those working or volunteering within the emergency services.
Showing staff that you’re listening to their concerns, even if there is little that can be done, can go a long way to making staff feel supported. Organisations which simply demand their employees to get on with it, without demonstrating understanding or empathy, risk creating an alienating, impersonal atmosphere.
Establishing a workplace culture where people can talk freely about mental health issues is important. Although the problem of stress is a very difficult one for our emergency services to address, ignoring the problem is far worse for all involved.
If public sector bodies can support their staff effectively, their frontline staff can get on with what really matters: putting out fires, preventing violence, saving lives. After all, doing good is why people join the emergency services in the first place.
Published date: 13th August 2020
This note is not intended to give legal or financial advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon for such. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and or market practice in this area. In preparing this note we have relied on information sourced from third parties and we make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein. It reflects our understanding as at 10th August 2020, but you will recognise that matters concerning COVID-19 are fast changing across the world. You should not act upon information in this bulletin nor determine not to act, without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Our advice to our clients is as an insurance broker and is provided subject to specific terms and conditions, the terms of which take precedence over any representations in this document. No third party to whom this is passed can rely on it. We and our officers, employees or agents shall not be responsible for any loss whatsoever arising from the recipient’s reliance upon any information we provide herein and exclude liability for the content to fullest extent permitted by law. Should you require advice about your specific insurance arrangements or specific claim circumstances, please get in touch with your usual contact at Risk Management Partners.
Risk Management Partners Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Registered office: The Walbrook Building, 25 Walbrook, London EC4N 8AW.
Registered in England and Wales. Company no. 2989025
Risk Management Partners Limited is the data controller of any personal information you provide to us or personal information that has been provided to us by a third party. We collect and process information about you in order to arrange insurance policies and to process claims. Your information is also used for business purposes such as fraud prevention and detection and financial management. This may involve sharing your information with third parties such as insurers, reinsurers, other brokers, claims handlers, loss adjusters, credit reference agencies, service providers, professional advisors, our regulators, police and government agencies or fraud prevention agencies.
We may record telephone calls to help us monitor and improve the service we provide. For further information on how your information is used and your rights in relation to your information please see our privacy notice at https://rmpartners.co.uk/privacy-policy. If you are providing personal data of another individual to us, you must tell them you are providing their information to us and show them a copy of this notice.