The first Wednesday in November each year is National Stress Awareness Day
We all know what it’s like to feel stressed – being under pressure is a normal part of life. But becoming overwhelmed by stress can lead to mental health problems or make existing problems worse. Employers must note that protecting the employee’s mental health as much as practicably possible falls within their duty of care in the same way that physical health does.
We often talk of an employer’s ‘duty of care’ to their employees. But just what does this duty consist of?
Employers have a duty of care to their employees, which means that they should take all steps which are reasonably possible to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing. Demonstrating concern for the physical and mental health of your workers shouldn’t just be seen as a legal duty – there’s a clear business case, too. It can be a key factor in building trust and reinforcing your commitment to your employees, and can help improve staff retention, boost productivity and pave the way for greater employee engagement.
For the first time, work-related stress anxiety or depression accounts for over half of all working days lost due to ill health in the U.K. In total, 15.4 million working days were lost in 2017/18 as a result of the condition, up from 12.5 million last year. This equates to 57.3 per cent of the 26.8 million work days lost to ill health according to figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This increase has been partially driven by a rise in the number of new or long-standing cases, with 595,000 workers reporting that they currently suffer from the condition up from 526,000 in 2016/17.
Recognising the signs of stress, anxiety or depression in the workplace is something employers must be proactive on. Employers are advised to educate line managers about the importance of knowing their staff collectively and individually so they can monitor any changes in their working patterns conduct or behaviours. Is someone taking more sick days that usual, for example, or avoiding completing certain tasks; or do they seem quieter and more introverted than usual? Identifying anything typically out of the norm and taking action early to speak with that individual will make stress, depression or anxiety far easier to understand and manage in the workplace from the outset.
Failing to identify or take action when employees are suffering from stress, anxiety and depression can leave employers open to discrimination claims. To avoid this, they should look to make reasonable working adjustments in instances where stress and depression are an issue, and certainly when formal diagnosis has been given. While it might depend on operational viability or affordability as to whether or not an adjustment is reasonable, it could simply mean removing an element of the job found to be too stressful for the employee or a change to their working times. Working collaboratively will help to limit the possibility of related grievances and make discriminatory claims less likely.
If we can help you with this or any other HR issue, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our HR Team at HR Services Scotland Ltd on 0800 652 2610.