The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published figures showing that half of the 1.7 million workers enduring a work-related illness in 2020/21, were suffering with stress, depression or anxiety.
The statistics published at the end of last year cover the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic which dominated those years. Two new estimates developed to measure the impact of the pandemic show that 93,000 workers self-reported catching Covid-19 at work; 52,000 of these worked in the human health and social work sector.
Also, 645,000 workers reported that their work-related illness was caused or made worse by the coronavirus pandemic; 70 per cent of these were cases of stress, depression or anxiety.
The pandemic has affected certain data collection and impacted on assessment of trends, therefore there is no new data on working days lost and the associated economic cost for 2021.
The HSE says “it is not known whether some of the people reporting a coronavirus-related ill-health condition would have developed and reported an ill-health condition if pre-pandemic working practices had continued” and so it is “not possible to assess the scale of work-related ill health independent of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic”.
HSE chief executive Sarah Albon said: “These annual statistics are important to give us a clear picture of the health and safety risks faced by workers in Great Britain and help to inform the measures HSE, employers, policymakers and workers themselves need to take to ensure everyone can go home from work safe and well.
“The 12-month period in question coincides with the first national lockdown and the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. There have been significant impacts on the labour market, which is reflected in our reporting.
“We worked differently too in responding to the challenges posed by the pandemic, advising across government, helping to shape guidance for businesses and implementing our Covid Spot Check programme to ensure workplaces were kept as safe as possible.”
Of the 1.7 million workers who suffered from a work-related illness (new or long-standing) in 2020/21, 800,000 were stress, depression or anxiety, and 28 per cent were musculoskeletal disorders (500,000 workers).
Albon added: “The latest figures on work-related stress reinforce our previous concerns around the scale of this issue in workplaces. Just last month we announced our new Working Minds campaign, in partnership with a number of key organisations, to help employers make recognising the signs of work-related stress routine.
“HSE continues to act as a proportionate and enabling regulator taking the most appropriate actions to achieve the best and quickest result. However, where employers fall short of expected standards, HSE will not hesitate to hold those responsible to account.”