How should employers deal with stress

Tomorrow is World Mental Health Day, and far from celebrating the fact that business “get it” when it comes to employees and stress, unfortunately they don’t!

We see a very complex relationship between environmental factors at work, stress at work and overall health of employees, but often this either just isn’t seen or understood by businesses or it’s simply ignored.

Reports constantly show that at least 25 percent of all workers in the UK feel stress either some, or all of the time whilst at work, a similar percentage of workers tend to admit that stress in the workplace negatively affects their health; psychosocial activities – violence and harassment, work-life unbalance, tight or impossible deadlines, high intensity of work and monotonous tasks contribute to work related stress.

It’s difficult to put the whole of the blame for workplace stress on employers, we believe that practical support is needed to bring about real change, businesses need support to help them understand stress, recognise when it’s present or likely to be present, and how to manage those ricks and more importantly how to manage employees that are showing signs of stress.

If we accept that the most common causes of stress at work are:

  • The demands made on employees
  • The level of control workers have over how they carry out their duties
  • The support staff receive from their managers
  • The clarity of an employee’s role in their organisation and
  • The nature of relationships at work.

Then it becomes obvious that the following will reduce stress:

  • Ensure employees are and feel valued
  • Management need an open line of communications with all employees
  • Ensure jobs are flexible and well designed to ensure understanding and interest in the work
  • Consult employees with any changes to working conditions or job roles
  • Deal with sickness and absenteeism sensitively and ensure a robust “back to work” procedure is in place
  • Develop an employee assistance programme (i.e. confidential counselling or help)
  • Promote a healthy lifestyle and work-life balance
  • Develop a truly supportive culture

Only when employers ‘tick all these boxes’ can they be more confident that they are protecting their employees from stress, less time of work equates to a more productive and happier workforce.

From a legal perspective, employers have a duty of care to their employees to protect them from an injury to their health attributable to stress at work. There is a risk therefore that if employers fail to recognise and address such issues and subsequently fail in their duty of care, that they could be exposed to claims for compensation.

 

In such situations where an employer has failed in their duty of care, those suffering with work related stress may be able to claim compensation for the impact matters have had on their health, the cost of any necessary treatment on a private paying basis and lost earnings from their employer.

The legal position for those who have suffered or who are suffering with stress at work is complex.

Michael Lewin Solicitors are specialists in claims for work related stress.

If you believe that you would benefit from legal advice on this matter or believe you may have a claim against your employer, please call us on 0844 499 9302 or email stress@michaellewin.co.uk

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