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Ambitious bureaucrats seek victims

Are you gainfully employed? If so, does your wicked employer make all manner of unreasonable demands upon you, such as actually turning up for work or doing the job you’re being paid to do?

Up until now, there was no means of redress for such manifest injustice and rank exploitation. But, lo, the dark ages are at an end. Thanks to the Health & Safety Executive, all employers must now comply with a ‘Stress Code’:

Employers will have to protect their staff from stress – or risk legal action, a watchdog has warned.

The Health and Safety Executive has launched a six-point code which firms must abide by.

They must support their employees and ensure they do not feel overly pressured in their roles.

Now I don’t profess to any expert medical knowledge or even any medical knowledge at all but even I know that a broken foot is a broken foot and pretty easy to detect. But how on earth is something as subjective as ‘stress’ going to be either properly identified or measured?

Well, the bright sparks at the H&S have come up with a forumla:

Companies will be assessed to see if they have reduced stress to manageable levels.

If fewer than 65 to 85% of all staff feel each standard has been met, the company will fail its assessment.

If that isn’t a charter for malingerers, clock-watchers, perennial malcontents and compensation-sniffers then I don’t know what is. And, short of being paid to go the park every day and feed the ducks, what job doesn’t involve some level of stress at some point or other?

Up to 13.4m days a year are lost due to stress at work.

And I wonder how many of those are actually ‘I’ve-got-tickets-to-the-football-match’ kind of ‘stress’?

It would be tempting to suggest that there is some insidious political agenda behind this but I honestly don’t believe that much thought has gone into it. More likely it is another classic case of bureaucratic empire-building which, as in this case, is usually done on the back of quackery, junk science and manipulated statistics.

The result is the same regardless. British entrepreneurs, already snowed under with laws, regulations, diktats and directives, have yet another welfarist function to fulfil and, I daresay, yet another sheaf of related forms that they will be required to waste their time completing.

I have a dream about just how much more prosperous and innovative our society could be if its wealth-creators were not required to spend so much of their productive time jumping through government hoops and avoiding state-created bear-traps that have no right to exist. It is rather similar to the dream that, one day, somebody in the parasitical public sector will realise that there is only so much blood they can draw out of the private sector before the latter simply rolls over and dies. I am not at all confident that either dream will be realised any time soon.

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6 comments to Ambitious bureaucrats seek victims

  • Tony H

    The BBC news piece to which you link fails to mention what provision might be made for the self employed such as me. I frequently suffer considerable stress when, for example, I have to meet a deadline and work ’til late at night, or get up at the crack of dawn to drive across country and work on location. I do hope that a benevolent State will provide, say, area counsellors who can assess my stress levels, then intercede with the clients who are generating this stress, and either persuade them to treat me more gently or compel them to pay compensation. Otherwise I think I might have a case under Human Rights legislation.
    This Prof Cooper: I wonder if his endorsement of the proposals might be considered self interested. I mean, “organisational psychology & health” suggests his finger might be in the pot.
    Last night I attended a meeting of business people to learn about exporting to/working in China. One guy described paying US$200 a month for his 11,000 sq/ft facility there, and paying his foreman $0.53 per hour – a good wage apparently. I wonder if his local workers have recourse to stress counselling.

  • Yay! Suborning thin-skinned sensitivos!

    Not only is it hard to find a job that doesn’t entail some stress… but that stress, in moderation, can actually be a GOOD thing. It can redirect or focus the energies toward accomplishing great things. I have two friends who work for a well-known national magazine, and the deadline is the most stressful, but also productive and exhilirating period in their work cycle.

    I tend to think market forces and self-determination should help these issues self-moderate! Some folks choose stressful jobs for a reason, other people choose other types of jobs, and others decide what they’re doing or where they’re working has become too stressful for their level of comfort… and then they move on. They don’t grab the ear of the GOVERNMENT and use its coercive power to change the way the job is constructed.

    But I understand this isn’t exactly a hewn cry from the people–just the nanny state protecting people from themselves again.

    I *could* see this happening in the US at some point. Since 16, when I started working, I’ve been frustrated with some of the existing laws meant to guard me from the “tyranny” of gainful employ. I wish I could have just made a covenant with my employer and left the government regs out of it.

    If it comes here, I expect a Stossel special to illuminate how utterly wrong-headed it is (and of course he always plays devil’s advocate, so the first thing he’ll say is “the United States of Europe and the UK have had strong state-regulated stress-level ceilings for years, so why shouldn’t we?”).

  • This is the sort of thing for which words seem inadequate. Upon reading it, I had that ineffable “welcome to our planet, Earthling” feeling that overcomes me only in the presence of the most extraordinary irrationalities.

    Britons, the time has come to put an end to this nonsense. Your civilization is at stake.

  • bear, the (one each)

    The very wankers that take advantage of laws like this are also the first to bleat when the boss closes down the plant and ships the manufacturing jobs to China, or the data processing and telephone-assistance jobs to India.

  • if you read the report you’ll see it was based on a study of civil servants over the last few years. Hence the stress standards are designed for them , not you private sector fools.

    But there’s a point here – with the taxes you’re paying your already working for HMG, so maybe they’re appropriate.

  • David,

    Just a suggestion for on-going editorial content, but why not run a weekly check on the Guardian jobfest. The impressive size and range of the Wednesday supplement is, frankly, a national scandal. It is where government gets bigger and it ought to be a prime target for libertarians. I am sure Samizdat could make creative use of it.