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Worker stress is costing businesses billions

29 September 2000 Media Statement

Worker stress is costing businesses billions

Stess-related illness could be costing New Zealand businesses as much as $3 billion a year in sick pay, missed deadlines and poor perfromance, Associate Minister for Accident Insurance Ruth Dyson said today.

Speaking to the annual conference of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine in Christchurch, Ms Dyson said the Employment Relations Act, which comes into effect on Monday, will play a key part in reducing workplace stress.

"Workplace stress is becoming an increasingly significant issue," says Ms Dyson. "We can no longer afford to ignore it.

"Stress is caused by a range of factors, including job insecurity, heavy work-loads, powerlessness, poor morale, and balancing home and work. Many of these issues have grown and festered over the dog-eat-dog years of the 1990s.

"Stress levels can easily be reduced, however, with increased awareness of the cause and effects and with good relations between employers and employees.

"Employers as a rule need to be assessing the risks of exposure to stress, taking steps to avoid or reduce it, and introducing stress management training. This has not been happening to any significant extent under the old Employment Contracts Act because it encouraged employers to become too narrowly focused on the immediate bottom line at the expense of all else.

"The Employment Relations Act introduces a labour relations system that treats employers and employees as people rather than as commercial commodities.

"The the new Act encourages employers and employees to appreciate and value each other's roles and contributions. This is essential if we are to begin to reduce stress at work. It is in everybody's interests that this happens," says Ms Dyson.

ENDS

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