Stress Awareness Week 4 - 8 November 2019

The Department of Health reports that 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health issue at some point in our lives. Stress has been reported as one of the most common causes of both long and short term absence from work. This has been highlighted by World Mental Health Day earlier this year and the current Stress Awareness Week this week.

Employers have a ‘duty of care’ towards all employees in respect of the workplace which includes taking measures to prevent employees suffering from excessive stress in their jobs.

Mental Health Awareness

Mental health impacts our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing, it impacts how we think, feel and act. Our mental health will affect how we handle stress, relate to others and make decisions.

Mental health concerns vary including being a bit down, diagnosed conditions such as depression and anxiety through to rarer conditions such as bipolar or schizophrenia. According to the CIPD:

  • Employees suffering from mental ill health are 37% more likely to get into conflict with colleagues. 
  • 80% of sufferers have difficulty concentrating. 
  • 62% of sufferers take longer to do tasks. 

A survey found that 15.4 million working days were lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18 .

Symptoms of stress

Stress can be identified by certain signs if someone starts to make unusual mistakes and has impaired decision making, increased illnesses or change in physical appearance, a change in personality or confidence, isolation.

What can Employers do?

  • Promote good mental health alongside promoting good physical health.
  • Stress in personal lives will at times impact work, flexible working, supporting a healthy work-life balance and Employee Assistance Programs are all useful tools for reducing the impact of mental ill health at work and reducing absence.
  • Stress levels can be reduced for your team by having clear business goals and ensuring the teams priorities are focused on these. This will in turn help manage workloads, ensuring key pieces of work are scheduled .
  • During times of change, effective communication can significantly reduce the stress.
  • Training for line Managers both directly in identifying and reducing their own and their teams stress but also in effective management, a skilled line manager will be able to reduce stress levels in their team.
  • Managing absence effectively, return to work interviews are a useful tool in picking up issues early.

If an employee is subjected to high levels of stress which the employer knows about and does nothing to remedy, an employee can consider resigning and claiming constructive unfair dismissal on the basis that the employer has breached the implied term of trust and confidence by failing to provide a safe system of work.

Posted on: 04/11/2019

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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