Business owners should be fully aware of their obligations and responsibilities to employees. Relevant legislation should also be in place to ensure they are compliant with the legal provisions relating to stress at work.
Legislation governing stress at work is surprisingly piecemeal, as there is not one single statute that makes provision for it. Instead, protection comes from a range of regulations and if you are an employer or an employee, you must understand the relevant provisions so that you are aware of its implications and your rights.
As an employer, your responsibility to manage stress amongst your members of staff extends further than a moral obligation. Employees are owed a duty of care and it could be said that there is an expectation on employers to ensure stress levels are managed to not impact a person’s health. Any inaction when it comes to addressing this could be a breach of contract.
Furthermore, as studies have shown that stress affects productivity, performance employers should note that employee stress can ultimately impact the bottom line.
Some mental health illness are recognised as disabilities and therefore come under the Equality Act 2010 as a protected characteristic, meaning people should not be treated differently due to them.
Research by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in 2015/16 shows that over 480,000 people in the UK reported that work-related stress was making them ill. This amounts to nearly 40% of all work-related illness. This directly affects productivity and performance in the workforce.
Just like any other aspect of health and safety, stress should be considered a threat to everyday work life and, in addressing this issue, an employer’s primary objective should be to decrease the risk of stress-related illness or injury to their members of staff. Employers must be proactive by raising awareness and have a clear policy in place to make provision against stress-related illness.
Furthermore, from an employer’s perspective, if it is not addressed they could also be at risk of a personal injury claim against them.
If you are an employer or employee, together with the Equality Act, there are also some key pieces of legislation that you should make yourself familiar with:
If an employee is unduly stressed, it is very likely that this will have a direct impact on their performance and skill when undertaking a task. It is therefore imperative that employers support employees who are stressed and do not unfairly conclude that the individual concerned lacks ability if there are temporary issues with their performance.
Employers should never make assumptions, but signs that an employee may be stressed include:
With ever-increasing pressures on the modern-day workforce, anxiety and depression are becoming more prevalent.
Establishing a strong policy on stress and mental health should be the first step for any employer in tackling such issues. Employees, management and HR should have a clear framework to assist with this as it is integral to removing any associated stigma and will provide comfort to all those that are affected.
If you are an employer, the benefits in creating a policy are clear, as a healthy happy workforce will ultimately increase productivity and improve your bottom line.