New Acas Guidance on Managing Workplace Stress
Acas this week launched new guidance for employers on managing workplace stress after a third of British workers (33%) reported that their employers are not effective at managing work-related stress.
The guidance covers:
- Causes and signs of stress;
- Understanding the law on work-related stress;
- Supporting employees with stress; and
- Preventing workplace stress.
On 2 November I blogged about Stress Awareness Day. In it, I reported the findings of the Mental Health Foundation which found that last year 74% of us have felt so stressed that we have felt unable to cope. Little surprise then that 44% of all work-related ill health cases are said to be attributable to stress, anxiety, and depression, accounting for 57% of lost working days.
Stress is an increasing concern in the modern working world. A certain amount of pressure can be beneficial. However, if not properly managed, stress can have a detrimental impact on an employee’s health and wellbeing. It can cause ‘burnout’, anxiety and depression and lead to other physical illnesses such as skin and digestive conditions and even heart disease.
It can also affect an individual’s performance and, if not properly managed, can lead to prolonged periods of sickness absence.
All too often clients report having been taken down a performance management route and, in some cases, having been dismissed where their cries for help have gone unrecognised or worse, have been blatantly ignored.
Employers need to be vigilant to ensure they are providing appropriate support to their workforce and take such steps as necessary to prevent or reduce work-related / workplace stress.
As is often the case, communication between an employee and employer is key. Risk assessments are also a useful tool that will help identify stressors and steps that might be taken to tackle the issues and avoid any risk of harm to individuals or a workplace dispute.
Whilst stress is not a medical condition, if the symptoms are sufficiently long term and serious it may result in an individual being protected as a disabled person under the Equality Act 2010. An employer who treats a disabled person less favourably or, who fails to have due regard to their obligations owed to a disabled person does so at their peril. They may have to deal with protracted disciplinary and grievances procedures and may find themselves the subject of legal proceedings for discrimination, personal injury and breach of health and safety laws if the issues cannot be resolved amicably.
We all sometimes say, “I’m stressed!” But the potentially detrimental implications of stress should not be underestimated. Dealing proactively with stress makes sense for everyone, making the Acas guidance essential reading for all.
This blog was written by Kate Lea, Senior Solicitor at didlaw