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