A survey by Investors in People, the awarding body for people management, found that over 77% of workers in the West Midlands have experienced stress at work and 33% have considered leaving their job because of it. So, what is stress?
The Health and Safety Executive defines stress as the ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’, whether this is at home or at work. Stress is a reaction, and will not normally amount to an illness in itself, although it may result in or be a trigger for other illnesses. The effects of stress are shown in physical and mental conditions, such as anxiety and depression, and physical health problems such as heart disease.
The difference between pressure and stress has long been a source of much debate. Whilst it is healthy for staff to have challenges at work, and increased pressure can improve performance and job satisfaction, too much pressure can have an adverse effect on health. Stress caused by our lives outside of work can also compound pressure at work and result in increased stress level in the workplace.
Employers often find it difficult to identify staff that are under stress, particularly when factors external to the workplace are involved.
Common signs of stress include:
ACAS, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, has produced a booklet to assist managers in promoting positive mental health at work. This identifies the following factors which it suggests employers can control when it comes to mental health at work (all of which can contribute to stress):
As an employer, you run an increased risk of stress-related claims should you not take action to manage the effects of stress on your employees. Employers should consider, indeed they should be seen to consider, the impact of stress in the workplace. This might include:
Whilst an anti-stress policy isn’t a document which employers are legally obliged to provide, an effectively implemented policy could help to mitigate the amount of stress and number of stress-related illnesses within the workplace.
A stress policy is a statement explaining an employer’s attitude to stress (whether resulting from acts inside or outside the workplace). It should also set out the action it is taking to:
An effective policy should provide advice on the measures that will be taken to monitor and, where necessary, eradicate the effects of stress at work. This may take the form of:
Having an anti-stress policy should not be the only part of an employer’s approach to dealing with workplace stress. It is important to ensure that an employer who introduces an anti-stress policy has effective means of supporting any commitments made in the policy.
Additionally, in making commitments to address stress as an issue in the workplace, an employer should ask itself if it provides relevant training on how to identify the signs of stress and deal with cases of stress? This training could be provided to all staff.
All employers have a common law duty to take reasonable care for the safety of their employees; they have a duty to see that reasonable care is taken to provide them with a safe place of work, safe tools and equipment, and a safe system of working.
Additionally, the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA) imposes a general duty on employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3242) (MHSW Regulations) also impose the following duties:
Lodders’ team of employment solicitors offers accurate, focused and solution-based legal advice to a wide range of clients. We have forged an excellent reputation for advising SME’s, publicly owned companies, charities and other bodies in respect of all manner of employment related issues. Nick Rowe in particular has a wealth of experience in acting for employers of a ranging types and sizes on the issue of disability and absence management.
If you’re a journalist looking for more information about Lodders, or to discuss a press release, please contact:
Diane Wood, DWPR on 07887 794507 or by email