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Stressed in the City

17 March 2016

Mental health and wellbeing has become a hot topic in the media with various television and other campaigns encouraging people to talk about it to destigmatise the subject.

Stress in the workplace has also become a regular issue for many businesses. A 2015 survey published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) revealed that two-fifths of organisations (and, shockingly, half of public sector organisations) found that stress-related absence had increased over the previous year.

The most common cause of the stress was excessive workload. In addition, two-fifths of organisations saw an increase in other reported mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.

These findings are worrying for businesses. Not only do employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees, but also stress can have a significant impact on their business, in that they won’t get the best out of staff. Sickness absence can also have the same negative effect.

It is therefore important for employers to assess and manage stress at work. They may want to consider the following:

Regular stress audits and risk assessments: Speak to employees regularly about their stress levels and the reason for them. Identify the causes in the workplace and find ways of avoiding them.

Anti-stress policy: Implement a policy setting out the employer’s attitude to stress and mental health problems in the workplace. Make clear the intention is to protect the mental health of employees and provide a process which will encourage them to seek support and assistance when needed.

Training: Employers should train staff to recognise the symptoms of stress in themselves and in their colleagues. Spotting stress early and addressing the problem may help to prevent sickness absence, as well as any further incidents in the future.

Support services: Consider providing confidential counselling services for employees to access which will help to address and alleviate their symptoms.

In 2014/2015 the Health and Safety Executive reported that 9.9 million working days were lost to work-related stress, anxiety and depression. Given that society is being actively encouraged to recognise and talk about mental health and wellbeing, it is likely that this number will only increase.

As with most things, prevention is better than cure, so if you do not have relevant anti-stress policies and procedures in place in your business, you would be well advised to introduce them. Please contact our employment team if you would like some assistance.

Jenny works in our employment law team. She helps clients with the full range of employment related matters including TUPE, defending tribunal proceedings, contractual matters and general employee relations and HR work. She has wide experience working for SMEs, owner-managed businesses and organisations employing in excess of 1,500 staff across the UK. 

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Jenny Hawrot LLB (Hons)
Senior associate, solicitor
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Jenny Hawrot
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