How to spot and deal with stress at work

Colleen Go­stick, of Buck­les So­lic­i­tors.

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Business -

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.­ploy­ment.html

This and other re­lated top­ics fea­ture in Buck­les’ reg­u­lar HR break­fast work­shops for em­ploy­ers.

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