Whilst we all experience varying amounts of pressure throughout our working lives, when this pressure develops into stress it is time for both the employee and employer to take positive action.
According to the Health & Safety Executive stress is “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand on them at work”. It is estimated that the cost of sickness absence resulting from work-related mental-health problems is approximately £1.3 billion per annum with stress taking centre stage as the major cause of long term sickness absence in the UK.
As an employer you have a legal duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of your employees and whilst you are not required to eliminate all pressures in the workplace you do have a common law duty to take reasonable care and minimise the risks wherever possible.
If you suspect an employee may be suffering from stress there are steps you can take. Hold a meeting and encourage open and honest dialogue about how they are feeling and what stress they feel they are under. In closely working teams other employees may have already raised concerns about a colleague, speak to them to find out what the causes/pressures might be.
If the cause of the stress is work related then it is important you act promptly and appropriately. There are legal consequences for handling issues of stress badly including personal injury/psychiatric injury litigation, unfair or constructive dismissal or discrimination claims.