Stress awareness month – have you considered your approach to work-related stress?

During April we have recognised Stress Awareness Month and stress is an ever-present reality, impacting us all in one way or another.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) define stress as a harmful reaction that people have as a result of undue pressures and demands placed upon them at work. Workplace stress can also manifest itself due to external stresses and pressures. By its very nature therefore, the causes of an employee’s stress can be difficult to identify.

The consequences of not managing work related stress for an employer is that there may be a decrease in performance, an increase in absence leading to staff turnover and potential legal claims.

Employers have a ‘duty of care’ towards employees. As well as the more obvious health and safety issues, measures should be taken to prevent employees from suffering from excessive stress in their jobs.

Employers are entitled to expect that employees can cope with the normal pressures of their role, and whilst employers are expected to take the initiative on tackling stress in the workplace, employees also have a duty to inform their employer if they believe they are suffering from stress related issues.

If stress is so severe it causes an employee to suffer a mental health illness and it can be established that the employer created a poor work environment, and that it was foreseeable that they would suffer in this way, the employee may be able to pursue a claim at the employment tribunal. In order to prevent this from occurring, employers are urged to have open conversations about stress in the workplace, to use regular one to one conversations and review meetings to discuss potential stressors. Prevention is better than cure!

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