Phillip Harding, an Employment
lawyer at Tallents Solicitors in Newark
, discusses why it makes good business sense for employers to deal with stress in the workplace.
Recent government figures have revealed that UK
unemployment has reached a 17-year high. Pressure is increasing on Britain’s workers, who are already concerned about increasing workloads and job insecurity
in an uncertain economic climate. Now, a recent Absence Management survey, carried out jointly by the Chartered institute of Personnel and Development
(CIPD) and Simply Health, has revealed how those pressures are affecting our workers. Stress is now the number one cause of employee long-term sickness absence for the very first time.
“Stress can have a significant impact on a business, more than some employers realise. Not only can stress lead to employee long-term absence, but it can also result in disengaged employees, reduced productivity, increased mistakes and more customer complaints. All of which are bad for business.”
The survey reports that there is a definite link between job security and mental health problems, especially where employers have announced plans to make redundancies (51% compared with 32% who are not planning redundancies). Given that so many employers are having to downsize due to budget cuts, many employees are feeling added pressure in the workplace due to extreme uncertainty.
“All employers have a duty under the Health and Safety Act 1974 to ensure, as far as is reasonably practical, the health and safety of their employees. Stress-related illnesses fall under this duty and employees may be able to make a claim for stress-related illness and injury if employers do not manage stress effectively.”
“There are a series of steps that employers can take to alleviate and manage stress in their businesses, and these can make a very positive difference:
- Look at the Health and Safety Executive website (http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/) for the latest employer and employee information about handling and managing stress.
- Check your employee handbook and ensure you have an up to date sickness or wellbeing policy, which should outline responsibilities for both employees and managers.
- Monitor employee holiday usage and encourage employees to use up all their holiday entitlements. Every employee is entitled to a statutory minimum amount of holiday (including bank holidays) and they should try and take this allowance each year. In smaller businesses, employees have a tendency not to take all their holiday allowances, but the holiday is vital to their wellbeing, so a responsible employer should monitor employee holiday usage and encourage them to use their entitlement.
- Stress can be managed through effective leadership and people management. Employers should focus on gaining the trust of their employees and ensure they communicate openly with them, especially during periods of major restructuring and uncertainty.”
“If employers are unsure of their health and safety employee responsibilities, then it can be worthwhile to speak to an experienced employment lawyer to ensure they are taking the correct actions and not overlooking employee health and wellbeing in the strive to save money and cut budgets.”