Leading supermarkets have defended their record on creating a stress free workplace after a report by the Health and Safety Executive blamed poor management for widespread stress among staff in the UK's shops, factories and offices. Sainsbury, Safeway and Asda all insisted they had taken steps to minimalise stress among their staff. A spokesman for Sainsbury said: "There is no stress here because we constantly listen to staff. We encourage feedback through staff councils and staff talkback surveys." Sainsbury has also experimented with "fit for life" workshops ­ one day courses led by a gym instructor to promote energy and leadership abilities. Safeway said its 85,000 employees were regularly monitored for symptoms of stress. All staff have access to an onsite occupational health unit which offers massage and reflexology. The company also subsidises gym membership for their staff. A spokeswoman for Asda said: "For us stress is not a major issue. We have flexible working, grandparents leave, and Benidorm leave, which is up to three months unpaid leave in the winter. We are a flexible employer." The HSE report, Tackling Work-Related Stress ­ a guide to improving and maintaining employee health and wellbeing, says that 6.5 million working days are lost annually through work-related stress. The causes include boring, repetitive work, inflexible schedules, lack of communication and consultation, lack of support, inconsistency and a culture of blame. It blames poor management for a problem which now costs businesses £370m a year through high staff turnover, increasing sickness levels, reduced work performance and poor timekeeping. The HSE intends to draw up a code of good practice for employers by 2003, which will act as a national benchmark for employers' performance in managing work related stress. The executive will also encourage organisations with more than 50 employees to use its step by step guide to identifying and tackling risk areas. And it reminds employers of their legal duty to ensure work does not cause undue stress among employees. Elizabeth Gyngell of the HSE said: "Work related stress is a huge problem with a heavy toll in human suffering. Managers have a key role in tackling it. There is a difference between having a buzz in the workplace and making unreasonable demands on employees." {{PEOPLE MOVES }}