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Government money available to help with stress at work


The stress caused by pressure at work has been a hot topic in the papers recently. Last week, the Sunday Times reported on a study from the Harvard School of Public Health, which reported that stress is as big a threat to health as smoking. Yesterday, The Times joined in with a article describing how work and home life can both contribute stress 'pressure points'. Today, the Sun has details of a report from the Health and Safety Executive, which says that almost 75% of UK workers suffer from stress, and those who suffer most are women trying to juggle work demands with family life.

The report from the Harvard School, which measured changes in health over a period of four years, says that those who are at greatest risk from stress-related health problems are women in jobs that entail high work demands, low levels of job control, and who have little workplace social support. Women who have more flexible jobs with reasonable demands and social support are less likely to succumb to stress-related illness.

The authors of the study recommend that these findings be used by employers as an incentive for restructuring jobs to give more workplace control to employees. "If workers are able to participate in decision making and have some flexibility and control over their jobs, then employers would be rewarded with fewer employee absences for health and even lower health insurance rates."

It's interesting to read therefore of the government's plans to help ease some of that pressure by providing money for employers to promote work-life balance, as announced yesterday by minister for employment and equal opportunities Margaret Hodge.

Hodge invited employers from all industry sectors to bid for a share of the #81.5m Challenge Fund that will provide free advice from consultants to develop work-life balance policies in their organisations. The consultancy work - tailored to the specific requirements of the companies - will identify changes in employment practices which both support business objectives and employee aspirations.

Speaking about the project, Hodge said that "the Challenge Fund is about spreading the good news that flexible work practices actually increase profitability. We intend to show businesses that the principles of work-life balance can be applied to any company, regardless of size, sector or location".

Copies of the application pack can be obtained from

The DfEE is advertising separately for consultants to work on the programme.


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