How to spot and deal with stress at work
Colleen Gostick, of Buckles Solicitors.
The topic of managing stress and depression in the workplace is a difficult and sometimes challenging one for employers – and one which our employment team, headed up by Giles Betts, are very familiar with, and used to giving advice on.
Research shows that employee stress levels are rising in line with demands of the 21st century workplace.
According to the HSE, the total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2014/15 was 440,000 – which amounts to 35 per cent of all work-related illnesses. The cost in lost number of working days due to this during the same period was a staggering 9.9 million.
Research has also shown that 40 per cent of organisations surveyed by the CIPD found that stress-related absence had increased over the last year.
Heavy workloads, work and personal relationships, and management style were found to be common causes.
In addition, 40 per cent of organisations saw a rise in reported mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Giles states that there are a number of tell-tale signs relating to possible stress, which employers can look out for if they suspect a member of staff is being affected.
These can range from a decline in work performance or general withdrawal to regression or aggressive behaviour.
So, how does a company handle allegations brought by a member of staff who claims their employer is causing them stress at work?
Giles points out that it is important to remember that there is no legislation in the UK specifically dealing with stress, and an employee may be able to bring any of a number of claims including:
Personal injury, a breach of the employer’ s common law duty of care, unfair dismissal, disability discrimination, harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
The employer should therefore take such matters seriously and look into potential remedial steps, if ap- propriate, including:
Transferring the employee, redistributing work, providing extra help, arranging treatment or counselling, providing buddying or mentoring. There is also the matter of dealing with malingerers. It is increasingly common for an employee to go off sick with stress as an automatic response to performance or disciplinary issues. It has been know for employees to Google symptoms of stress and depression and present these to their GP.
Giles and his team suggest that if you strongly suspect malingering, then you may be able to refer an employee to an expert psychologist for symptom validity testing so that you can form a view as to whether the employee does genuinely have a medical condition.
If you would like more information on this issue, contact Buckles’ employment team on 01733 888888 or visit http://www. buck les-law. co.uk/employment.html
This and other related topics feature in Buckles’ regular HR breakfast workshops for employers.