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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Epidemic of stress among charity workers

This news post is about 3 years old

A confidential survey by a major union has revealed the majority of staff in the third sector have experienced stress in the workplace

Charity workers are suffering an epidemic of mental health issues and stress, a survey has revealed.

A confidential poll carried out by Unite the Union revealed 80% of third sector workers it asked have experienced workplace stress in the last 12 months.

And 42% of respondents said they believed their job was not good for their mental health.

More than 850 members from 238 organisations across the UK took part in the study.

Organisations Unite received responses from include Citizens Advice, Action for Children, Age UK, RSPCA, Save the Children, Oxfam, Samaritans, British Heart Foundation and Greenpeace UK.

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 staff’s 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.

“It is impossible to get away from the stark fact that the catastrophic cumulative impact of austerity cuts on the sector and mismanagement of dedicated and passionate workers is making them ill and creating widespread misery.

“However this is no excuse for them to challenge the long hours, excessive workloads and bullying which members say is a huge factor in mental health and stress problems. They must stop exploiting the goodwill of their workers.”

Quotes submitted as part of the survey

“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.”

“I have left as I could no longer put up with the misery of it all. Final straw in a meeting where my manager yelled at me and I handed in my notice on the spot.”

“It is a strange phenomenon to be 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.”

The survey highlights a number of issues in the workplace: with 44% of respondents not believing they worked for a well-managed organisation, over a third (34%) didn’t feel valued at work and four in 10 didn’t feel their job was secure.

One in five (22%) of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement ‘I work in a safe and healthy working environment’.

Although many respondents report poor morale in their organisation, 92% also stated that they "believe in the work they do."

In response to the survey, Unite has said it is stepping up its efforts to ensure that its representatives have the tools to tackle stress and mental health problems in the workplace.



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Peter Le Riche
about 3 years ago
Sounds like a previous employer. No matter how loud we shout and make our selves extremely vulnerable. NO ONE SEEMS TO LISTEN. It just carries on as usual and gets the jobs as it bids the lowest.
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Robert McIntosh
almost 3 years ago
Sadly all too true with some charities - the CEO and head office managers became bloated whilst the workers on the ground were slowly starved. Any dissent was forceably pushed aside “just get on with it”, service users were relegated to something you had to put up with, use your own mobile for work, print your own payslips, holiday pay cut with no notice etc etc