Jean Lambert, London's Green MEP, has called on the UK Government to address the problem of stress in the work place, as part of the Welfare Green Paper to be published tomorrow.
Jean, who is due to release a new report, 'I Must Work Harder? Britain and the Working Time Directive' next month, warned that the way to reduce the number of people claiming incapacity benefits is to focus on improving people's health and not by increasing Doctors pay. Jean commented: "In everything we have heard about the numbers claiming incapacity benefits and ways to reduce it, no one has addressed on of the key contributory causes - circumstances at work. British people work some of the longest hours in Europe leading to high stress levels and ultimately serious health implications that are preventing people from working. In 2004 / 2005 around half a million people felt that their job was making them ill and this number continues to rise.
"The problem is that the UK's exemptions from the Working Time Directive, drafted to ensure a high standard of protection of workers' health and safety with regard to working time, means that employees can voluntarily work above the 48 hour week and the long hours continue to impact on our health.
"The priority for the UK Government should be people's health and not simply benefit targets. The costs associated with poor work health are detrimental to economic and individual development. By addressing the root cause of the 'sick note culture' the Government will inadvertently save money without having to bribe Doctors to cut the number of exemption certificates they write."
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Notes to editors:
Jean Lambert: In October 2005 Jean was named MEP 2005 for Justice and Human Rights. Jean was first elected Green Party Member of the European Parliament for London in the 1999 European elections. She was re-elected in 2004. She is one of nine MEPs representing London and one of two UK Green representatives in the European Parliament.