It’s natural to be stressed sometimes, when our professional or personal lives – or sometimes both together – become overwhelming.
But if stress is something that’s starting to take over your professional life, it could be time to take action. Going into work every day with a sense of dread and coming home every night feeling burdened by what you still have to do can start to take its toll on your mental and physical wellbeing. And it’s essential that employers are effectively managing stress in their workplace, giving their employees the proper channels to discuss any issues.
According to figures from the most recent Labour Force Survey published by the Health and Safety Executive, the total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in Great Britain in 2016/17 was 526,000 – that’s 1,610 per 100,000 workers.
A total of 12.5 million working days was lost during this timeframe due to stress. And stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 40% of all work-related ill health cases and 49% of all working days lost due to ill health.
Some quite sobering statistics.
The survey also highlighted that women suffer significantly higher levels of work-related stress, anxiety and depression than men. This is especially the case for those aged 35-44, when many women are juggling an array of family responsibilities, such as caring for children and elderly parents, as well as their job.
Other stress factors include the fact women predominate in some of the most taxing frontline roles such as teaching and nursing, and they can also face further pressures such as workplace sexism and unequal pay. In a restructure, not having the time to network with senior – often male – bosses puts women at a disproportionate risk of stress.
Stress and the law
As it stands, there is no specific legislation in the UK which deals with stress at work. However, employers are responsible for tackling stress at work in the form of health and safety legislation, discrimination legislation, the Working Time Regulations 1998, common law tort (an employer’s common law duty of care) and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
Under discrimination legislation, stress, depression and anxiety may well amount to a ‘disability’. The test for this under the Equality Act 2010 is if the employee has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and adverse long-term effect on their day-to-day activities. If an employer makes a mistake when dealing with these issues, they could face an expensive claim for disability discrimination.
Given the prevalence of stress in the workplace and the disproportionate effect that it has on women, managing stress in the workplace is very important. Solutions could include training managers to recognise symptoms of stress, carrying out return-to-work meetings and performance reviews, implementing a stress policy which helps employees to deal with stress and offering an employee assistance programme.
Nobody should go into work every day feeling stressed. By taking some fairly simple steps, employers can really help to tackle stress and create a happy and harmonious working environment.
The Lester Aldridge employment team deal with these and other issues on a regular basis.
With offices in Bournemouth, Southampton and London, the employment team can support you and your business in all their HR and employment needs.
Catharine Geddes and the team have a wealth of experience across both public and private sectors in large corporations and SME or owner-managed businesses or for you as an employee.
From staffing issues, policies, handbooks, contract and director service agreements to restructuring, redundancy, TUPE, discrimination and whistleblowing or for your individual employee issues, we have the skills and experience to deliver results. Whatever your employment or HR need, call the team on 01202 786148 now.