Stress and its impact on an individual’s occupation is currently in the lime light after One Direction’s Zayn Malik has announced he will be leaving the band to lead a ‘normal life’. This comes shortly after him dropping out of the band’s scheduled world tour because of stress. It is undoubtable that stress is hard for anyone to cope with but given Zayn’s status as a huge public icon arguably his decision can be regarded admirable.
His admiration should come as no surprise however, as much research shows stress levels among employees are rising in line with the increasing demands of modern employment. This is problematic because complex legal issues can arise because of workplace stress.
Do you recognise any of these in your workplace?
- Malicious gossip
- Loss of control over work
- Arriving late to work
- Lack of holiday/planning usage
- Reduced social contact
- Loss of motivation or commitment
Below are some key points to remember, along with possible strategies to reduce risk of stress-related claims.
What is stress?
The Health and Safety Executive defines stress as the ‘adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’. Although pressure in the workplace is considered good or even healthy to ensure employees provide ultimate performance, too much can be bad for health resulting in stress or chronic stress which consequently triggers mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, or physical health issues such as heart disease.
How can it affect work performance?
Stress can affect work performance in many different ways. It is often very hard to identify staff that are suffering from, or are under a lot of stress as external factors in many instances also contribute.
There is no legislation in the UK that specifically deals with stress in the workplace or its impact on work performance. This makes it incredibly complex as the rights and duties of employers and employees are found in many different statues and case law, making it scary territory for the majority.
What is the minimum action(s) I should I undertake if my employee(s) is suffering with stress?
It is beneficial for employers to consider the impact of stress in the workplace because evidently employees under a lot of stress are not going to perform to their best ability. It is highly advisable that an anti-stress policy is contained in the handbook or employment contract, (details of which are detailed below). However, if this is not the case in your situation, it is suggested at least the following is undertaken:
- A stress questionnaire or audit along with a general employee survey
- Use return to work interviews after sickness absence, especially long-term sickness absence and performance appraisals
- Effective training to managers to identify the symptoms of stress and situations likely to trigger it
- General adequate training to ensure employees are not delegated tasks they cannot perform or are not within their job description (again this comes down to effective training of management)
Although anti-stress policies are not enough on their own, to highly protect yourself from stress-related claims it is vital you implement/incorporate one. A stress policy is a statement that not only outlines an employer’s attitude to stress including internal and external acts from the workplace, but stipulates the action it will take to protect its employee’s well-being in preventing stress.
It is essential your anti-stress policy includes:
- Advice on measures to monitor and limit stress and its effects in the workplace in the form of:
- Training for managers and staff to raise awareness and develop the skills to deal with stress
- An explanation of the role and expectations of managers and supervisors. Employers must be clear on what they need managers to do.
- Effective reporting of incidents in the workplace that give rise to stress
- An approachable system of communication so employees do not feel discriminated against for admitting they are suffering from stress
- Including stress in risk assessments and a clear line of action for how stress risks are going to be assessed, carried out and who is responsible.
- Reference to sickness absence policies, capability procedure and anti-bullying and harassment policy, grievance procedure (for those who wish to complain about stress-related tasks) and disciplinary procedure (for those employees creating or causing stress felt by others or contravene the stress policy) which employers SHOULD have in operation.
- Internal and external support services for those staff members suffering from stress
- Reasonable adjustment to job description and working environment to accommodate disabled employees and reduce stress
For advice or guidance on the specifics of the law relating to stress in the workplace contact us on 0114 3032300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Our website www.bhayanilaw.co.uk also contains free guidance.