Legal Advice on Stress at Work

Workplace stress is becoming
increasingly common but it’s something many of
us often keep quiet or don’t know
what to do about or even where
to turn for help. What you might not know is that your
employer is legally required to help you if work stress has become
an issue in your life. An employer has a duty of care to their employees to ensure that there is a safe working environment and that includes in relation
to minimising the risk of stress and stress-related
illnesses. There are a lot of things that employers can do
to try and manage stress in the workplace. One of the first things they might want to do is to conduct a stress audit to find out
what is causing employees stress and they could even do that
on an anonymous basis so that employees feel free
to be frank in their answers. It’s also important then to look at things like
patterns of sickness absence and return to work interviews
can be very helpful for trying to find out what the underlying cause of absence may be because we know that employees don’t always
report stress as the reason that they’re out sick. Employers should have
a stress policy that makes it very
clear to employees that they should raise concerns
if they’re stressed and how to do so. So that, really, there is a culture
of being open about this kind of issue and it is communicated
to everybody. Crucially, then training
managers to identify situations
that cause stress and can give rise to stress and what the
symptoms of stress in their employees are so that they can help
to manage that too. Workers and employees have a right to
take time off when they’re sick and that can include if they
are sick by reason of stress, but it’s really more about what can an employee do when they’re in this situation in order to raise concerns
with their employer and I would say in that scenario
it’s important to raise your concerns early rather than
suffer in silence because what I’ve seen in my work is a
lot of employees who struggle on in difficult circumstances and it gets to
the point where they’re at breakdown or they’re diagnosed with a
serious depressive illness. It’s important to speak out,
whatever is happening, and to try and raise your concerns
often informally at an early stage. So, you can
speak to your line manager if the line manager doesn’t want to take
action or is the cause the problem, perhaps, then do speak to HR, talk to your union rep
or other employee rep. You can seek advice from
the Citizens Advice Bureau, or indeed ACAS, or you can seek specialist
legal advice from an employment lawyer. We know that workers in the UK do some of
the longest working hours across Europe. Stress does seem to be a
particular issue in this workplace culture. There are other countries
where, for example, an employee can call in sick
and say they’re having a Mental Health Day and that’s recognised
and it’s taken seriously because it’s recognised by an employer
that being open about your concerns and sometimes just
taking some time out is going to be more beneficial to an employee and, therefore, to the employer, its morale and
productivity than soldiering on
in a difficult situation. For more information
people should go to our website

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