Unite: Epidemic of stress at charities and NGOs

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Ayo Ogunseinde via Unsplash
21 May, 2019


Unite has published the findings of a survey revealing an epidemic of stress related illness mental health issues, charities and NGO staff.

The survey found that 80 per cent of respondents had experienced workplace stress in the last 12 months, while 42 per cent of respondents believed their job was not good for their mental health.

Over 850 members from 238 organisations replied to Unite’s survey.

44 per cent of respondents didn’t believe they worked for a well-managed organisation, over a third (34 per cent) didn’t feel valued at work and four in 10 (40 per cent) didn’t feel their job was secure.

More than one in five (22 per cent) 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 per cent also stated that they ‘believed in the work they do. Indicating the organisation’s concerned are often tempted to exploit the goodwill of their workforce.

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.”
  • “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.”

Unite says that it is stepping up its efforts to ensure that its representatives have the tools to tackle stress and mental health problems in the workplace.

The union’s 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.

“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.”