Europe Economy

Financial workers fall sick due to stress

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The threat of job losses and the pressures created by restructuring the financial sector have led to a decline in the health and wellbeing of the industry's workers, according to a global survey..

"The poor health of finance workers is becoming the next phase of the financial crisis, according to UNI Finance Global Union's 2013 survey on the impact of job losses amid a period of heavy restructuring, tighter regulation and redundancies in the financial industry.

"A major finding of our survey this year is the worldwide effects on health as workers suffer from excess pressure to sell, fear of unemployment and having to face angry customers," a result which the survey by UNI published on Wednesday said was "a major consequence of the non-ending culture of restructuring based on cutting labor costs."

Compiling written surveys from unions in 26 of its member countries, UNI – a global umbrella union which brings together over 900 trade unions and whose finance division represents three million employees in the finance sector -- said more than 80 percent of affiliated unions in Europe had reported increased health problems as a result of job cuts and increasing work pressures.

(Read more: Banking career (a little) less popular 5 years after Lehman)

Furthermore, half of the responding unions said their members reported their personal lives were "taking a blow" during an era of increased job insecurity.

French banking group Natixis became the latest financial group to announce job cuts on Wednesday, confirming an earlier report that it planned to shed 700 jobs by 2015 as part of a drive to reduce costs, as other banks have done before it.

Thousands of workers have been made redundant at U.K. banks Barclays and RBS, Swiss bank UBS and Dutch banking and insurance group ING in the past couple of years.

(Read more: Strip clubs to bars feel the pain of London banking cuts)

In total, 160,000 jobs have been lost from the banking sector worldwide, according to Reuters, although UNI said the figure was higher, saying that since 2011 "at least another 192,667 jobs were lost in the finance sector."

While UNI Global Union said that job losses were declining in some European countries, they were still accelerating in seven countries in the region, reflecting a wider trend in Asia/Pacific, the Americas and Africa.

"Worldwide, frontline and back office jobs are most often being lost. IT jobs follow but these losses are only half as prevalent as the previous two. Highly qualified jobs are also being cut in Denmark, Finland, Greece, Spain, and U.K. as well as in Venezuela and Ghana."

For finance workers that had managed to retain their jobs, they reported being pressured to sell financial products despite sales targets ignoring the tougher economic environment. The introduction of performance-related pay had also increased this pressure.

Older workers were being laid off to bring in younger, less-experienced -- but cheaper -- employees, the survey found, while female workers reported that it was yet harder to access better roles and pay.

UNI deplored the results, saying that many banks and insurance companies had returned to profit in 2013 whilst workers remained under strain.

"Large banks in particular are making vast profits, with senior employees paid more than 100 times the lowest paid employees," its report stated.

It warned that restructuring was "backfiring" on business and productivity with over one third of affiliates in Europe and all in Asia reporting that productivity at work had suffered due to the pressure.

- By CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt

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