Did you know that stress is now the biggest source of work related ill health accounting for 44% of all cases? A total of 595,000 workers suffered from work related stress last year which resulted in 15.4 million working days lost.
What is stress?
The HSE defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’.
A small amount of stress can be a positive thing, indeed some people thrive on it, but if stress manifests itself into something more clinical such as a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety or depression, the consequences can be devastating.
Contributors to workplace stress
Bullying / harassment
Exposure to trauma
Lack of support
Advice on Stress for Employees and Employers
You must tell your manager or HR if you feel you are becoming ill through work related stress; please do not suffer in silence.
With the exception of certain harassment cases, the law says that in order for the employer’s duty of care to prevent prevent psychiatric harm to its employees, such harm needs to be foreseeable. Speaking up therefore has two benefits:
Firstly and most importantly, it will give the employer an opportunity to do something positive to alleviate the employees stress to prevent illness.
Secondly, it puts the employer on notice of the decline in the employee’s health to engage its duty of care to prevent such illness. If the employer then breaches that duty of care and illness flows as a result, a claim for compensation may be viable.
The law requires every employer to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of its employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work.
Despite this being written into statute since 1999, more often than not, employers are too reactionary when it comes to stress and wellbeing and more needs to be done to prevent people becoming ill in the first place.
I would encourage all employers to make use of the excellent resources on the HSE website when it comes to identifying and managing the risks of stress to help comply with their legal obligations. All roles should be risk assessed but particularly so in the following circumstances:
When an employee reports to you that their health is suffering due to their workload or the type of work they are doing; and When employee reports they are being bullied by another employee.
Once the cause of stress has been unidentified the employer should then take all reasonably practicable measures to alleviate the same.
Failure to accept work related stress as one of the greatest public health challenges of our time will come at a high price. Employers will suffer with their bottom line in both lost productivity and otherwise avoidable litigation whilst employees will arguably bear the greatest price; with their mental health. We all have a part to play and the time for action is now.
Please note that these guides are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice. You can contact one of our expert consultant lawyers using the form below.
If you feel that that you are suffering from work related stress or have been bullied or harassed in the workplace, complete the survey below to find out if you have a potential claim.