A quarter of call centre staff even have their access to a toilet restricted.

This is according to a new survey by union UNISON  which reveals that physical and mental health of the UK’s million call centre workers is at significant risk, despite health and safety regulations.
The survey highlights the toll that pressurised, target-driven and restrictive, closely-monitored working can take on call centre staff, preventing from taking the necessary measures to protect their health and wellbeing.
By its nature high-volume, and increasingly repetitive, call centre work is responsible for high numbers of health complaints, with nearly 70% of respondents experiencing eyestrain at least some of the time, nearly 60% reporting the same for hearing problems and more than half having problems with their voices.

Of equal concern to UNISON, however, is the number of respondents who reported that their working practices were causing them mental distress.

More than 80% of respondents said that their work caused them to feel stressed, and nearly a quarter of those saying the stress experienced has reached a damaging level that impacts on their home and personal life.

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON said: “The alarming number of health problems highlighted by the survey shows why health and safety matters, and the folly of this government’s constant attacks on health & safety and the cuts in inspections in workplaces such as call centres.

“That this survey has shown more than a quarter have had their basic right to a toilet break restricted or monitored is bad enough, but the physical
toll on call workers’ eyes, ears and voices – the tools of their trade – is something that managers and organisations cannot ignore.

“Workers rightly expect their employers to have a duty of care not only to their physical health, but also to their mental wellbeing, and the findings of this survey – that 8 in 10 are experiencing stress, a quarter of them to a damaging degree – must be addressed urgently.

“The results of this survey should be a wakeup call for call centre employers, and UNISON demands that they act now before the situation gets even worse.”

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees. In addition, the Management of Health and Safety at Work (MHSW) Regulations require employers to assess health and safety risks in order to identify measures needed to reduce them, but UNISON believes more must be done
to improve enforcement and protect this significant group of workers.

The findings of the survey have formed the basis of ‘UNISON Calling’ – a new guide that aims to help UNISON reps work with employers to ensure that the
health and emotional wellbeing of call centre staff remains a top priority, and has informed a new Call Centre Charter.