Stress & mental health issues widespread among charity employees, survey finds

Melanie May | 21 May 2019 | News

A survey of Unite members has revealed widespread stress related illness and mental health issues among people employed by charities and NGOs.
The confidential survey by Unite found that 80% of respondents said that they had experienced workplace stress in the last 12 months, while 42% said they believed their job was not good for their mental health.
Over 850 members from 238 organisations including Citizens Advice, Action for Children, Age UK, RSPCA, Save the Children, Oxfam, Mind, Amnesty International, British Heart Foundation, Stroke Association, Diabetes UK and Greenpeace UK replied to Unite’s survey.
According to the survey findings, 44% of respondents didn’t believe they worked for a well-managed organisation, over a third (34%) didn’t feel valued at work and 40% didn’t feel their job was secure.
Over one in five (22%) of respondents also disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement ‘I work in a safe and healthy working environment’.
However, 92% also stated that they ‘believed in the work they do’.
Quotes from anonymous responders to the survey include:

“I have no autonomy and limited support from HR. My job is slowly killing me. I have been grabbed twice by my manager, subjected to enforced hugging, eye rolling, muttering under her breath and humiliation at meetings in front of others. I have either been told about (by other alleged victims) or directly witnessed bullying of nine other former colleagues.”
“It’s a strange phenomenon to by bullied by management/employer who is a charity, so many things about this employer are great, but some very wrong and ‘they’ can’t see it nor understand.”
“I have currently been signed off sick by my doctor due to stress related illness. This was due in no small part to bullying and mismanagement on the part of my line manager. My morale is at an all time low and I feel disconnected from my workplace even though I have been there for over 15 years.”

In response to the survey Unite says it is stepping up its efforts to ensure that its representatives have the tools to tackle stress and mental health problems in the workplace.  It has produced a guide to how representatives can challenge employers on workplace issues that cause mental health problems and stress, and reps are also being encouraged to sign up for mental health awareness training.
Unite national officer for charities and the voluntary sector Siobhan Endean said:

“The survey’s findings are profoundly disturbing. While some charities and NGOs are committed to ensuring their staffs’ welfare it is clear many are not.
“Staff employed by charities and NGOs tend to be very committed to their organisation and are usually loathe to speak out as their fear it will damage the cause they work for. However, many workers are clearly at breaking point.
“Unite is putting employers on notice that management has to change and they need to work with our representatives to tackle these problems that are at epidemic levels.”

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