May 18, 2021
WHO study finds long working hours killing hundreds of thousands of people a year – Louise O’Reilly TD

Speaking this morning, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, and Employment, Louise O’Reilly TD, has said a World Health Organisation study which found that long working hours are killing hundreds of thousands of people a year should be a wakeup call for the government on the need to ensure a workers are protected and have healthy work life balances.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“The study from the World Health Organisation (WHO), which found that 745,000 people died in 2016 from stroke and heart disease due to long working hours, should be a wakeup call for all governments on the need to protect workers and ensure they have healthy work-life balances.

“The WHO research found that working 55 hours or more a week was associated with a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared with a working week of 35 to 40 hours.

“This is truly shocking data, and put into the context of other occupational diseases, it is even more stark – the report outlined how working long hours was estimated to be responsible for about one-third of all work-related disease, making it the single largest occupational disease burden.

“Trade Unions fought for an eight-hour day in the 19th century and a two-day weekend in the 20th, however, for many workers this is no longer the reality; pressure from employers and managers, overbearing workloads, precarious employment contracts, poor pay, and excessive out of hours contact, have meant that the eight-hour day is almost a thing of the past for many workers.

“Excessive out of hours contact is a significant cause of worker fatigue and stress, and countless workers have relayed to me that this has only increased during the pandemic with employers and managers contacting them late at night, or at the weekend, requesting a task to be completed immediately.

“Unless the government steps in and guarantees greater protections for workers and ensures they have healthy work-life balances, then more people will become ill and die because of overworking.

“The Tánaiste can make a start by supporting the passage Sinn Féin’s ‘Right to Disconnect Bill’ which would ensure proper regulation of excessive out-of-hours contact between employers and staff via email, messaging app or phone, or other, and give workers a legal right to disconnect, or switch off, from work.

“I would also call on the Tánaiste to follow the lead of Spain and Scotland and look at providing funding for a pilot project to explore the benefits of a four-day working week.

“We have to be honest here, no other disease, illness, or ailment which causes this level of sickness and death would be tolerated by government. That is why the contents of this report should be studied by the Tánaiste, the Minister responsible for workers’ rights, and incorporated into further legislative protections for workers to ensure they are protected and have healthy work life balances.”

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