Research shows that employee stress levels are rising in line with demands of the 21st Century workplace. ACAS reports that each new case of stress leads to an average of 31 days off work.
What is stress?
The Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) defines stress as the “adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them“. Stress takes many forms. As well as leading to anxiety and depression it can have a significant impact on an employee’s health. ACAS states “Pressure is part and parcel of work and helps to keep us motivated. But excessive pressure can lead to stress which undermines performance, is costly to employers and can make people ill“. Therefore, managing stress effectively is important for all employers.
There is no legislation in the UK that deals specifically with stress. The rights and duties of both employers and their employees in relation to stress derive from a combination of different statutory and common law provisions, and include health and safety legislation; negligence; restrictions on working hours, i.e. the Working Time Regulations 1998; disability discrimination; breach of contract, (breach of mutual trust and confidence); duty of care; whistle blowing and so on. Failure to deal with stress adequately can lead to claims brought in courts and the employment tribunal.
How to manage stress in the workplace
ACAS states that “For many people “stress” still represents something of an unknown quantity. HSE has addressed this problem by developing The Management Standards to help employers measure their performance in managing the key causes of stress at work and identify HOT SPOTS and areas of improvement & further intervention”
The Standards look at the following six areas:
When addressing the Standards mentioned above employers should consider taking the following steps:
Overall by taking proactive measures, stress can be prevented thereby reducing sickness absence and in turn time and cost to an employer. It will also provide a more productive, engaged, resilient and happy workforce.
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