Latest update: 15/03/2023

Framework agreement on work-related stress

In 2004, the EU cross-industry social partners signed the framework agreement on work-related stress.

Aim
The EU cross-industry social partners, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), the Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations of Europe (UNICE), the European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public services (CEEP) and the European Association of Craft Small and Medium-sized Enterprises ((UEAPME) negotiated the autonomous framework to increase the awareness and understanding of work-related stress.

Contents
The framework agreement does not provide a definition of stress, but describes it as "a state, which is accompanied by physical, psychological or social complaints or dysfunctions and which results from individuals feeling unable to bridge a gap with the requirements or expectations placed on them". The framework emphasises the need to identify risk factors of work-related stress and to take appropriate actions to prevent, eliminate or reduce it.
In addition, European social partners confirm that tackling work-related stress is an obligation under EU legislation on occupational health and safety (Framework Directive Directive 89/391/EEC).
The agreement highlights the importance of management measures, training and communication by proposing measures such as

  • clarifying the company’s objectives and the role of individual workers, ensuring adequate management support for individuals and teams, matching responsibility and control over work, improving work organisation and processes, working conditions and environment,
  • training managers and workers to raise awareness and understanding of stress, its possible causes and how to deal with it, and/or to adapt to change,
  • provision of information to and consultation with workers and/or their representatives in accordance with EU and national legislation, collective agreements and practices.

Implementation
The agreement was signed in 2004 and all parties involved agreed to implement it through their member organisations within three years of the date of signature. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 the EU social partners have published implementation reports providing an overview of actions at European, national and sectoral levels. In 2011 the EU Commission carried out a study to analyse the implementation of the framework agreemenbased on the implementation reports of the social partners and data collected from Member States’ authorities. The study concluded that the framework agreement was a significant step forward and added value in most Member States by improving social dialogue, the development of practical guidance and improving the regulatory framework. However, there is room for improvement, both at national and EU level, in terms of strengthening worker protection and supporting organisations to tackle work-related stress more effectively. 

Publication details

  • Published by: EU cross-sectoral social partners: ETUC, UNICE, UEAPME and CEEP
  • Publication date: October 2004
  • Number of pages: 4 pp.
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