Stress in the workplace – what can you do about it?

erase stress

43% of all working days lost to ill-health are due to stress. It’s the most common cause of long-term sickness absence and perhaps, unsurprisingly, employees point to high workloads, long hours and their boss’ management style as the key triggers.

But what can you (or should you) do about stress?

Put simply, health and safety legislation obliges you as an employer to assess the risk of stress and take steps to reduce it. Stress can lead to a variety of other medical complaints, not least anxiety and depression.

Given the very wide definition of ‘disability’ at law (which often encompasses these sorts of illnesses), employers are potentially exposed to claims of discrimination, not to mention a constructive dismissal argument where the employer has failed to deal with the issue properly.

There’s a reason in itself to take it seriously!

Employers should ensure that they actively manage absence, whether it is one day here or there or long term. ‘Return to work’ interviews are an ideal opportunity to find out the reason for the absence and establish whether there is anything that the employer can do to help.

Some simple adjustments to the employee’s work might relieve the stress, for example, adjusting working hours or the delegation of certain duties. If a particular issue is identified, Occupational Health involvement might be required.

Whilst no-one wants to end up in front of an Employment Tribunal, being able to demonstrate that you acted reasonably is crucial to defending claims. Prevention is better than cure but training your managers to identify stress at an early stage and encouraging them to tackle it is likely to reduce problems in the long run.

Recognising stress

Employers should be on the look out for slips in performance, employees working excessive hours or perhaps an employee who has lost interest in their work. Training on how to recognise and manage stress and ensuring an open culture in which employees feel supported will help to demonstrate that as an employer you have taken the steps you need to take.

If you need help dealing with stress-related absence or any other issue, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of our Employment team.

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