Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it.
What is stress?
HSE defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’.
Employees feel stress when they can’t cope with pressures and other issues.
Employers should match demands to employees’ skills and knowledge. For example, employees can get stressed if they feel they don’t have the skills or time to meet tight deadlines.
Providing planning, training and support can reduce pressure and bring stress levels down.
Stress affects people differently – what stresses one person may not affect another. Factors like skills and experience, age or disability may all affect whether an employee can cope.
To protect employees from stress at work, employers should assess risks to their health.
An Employer may need to develop individual action plans for employees suffering from stress.
Employers may also find HSE’s Management Standards helpful. The standards help identify and manage the six causes of stress at work.
What are the Management Standards?
HSE’s Management Standards represent a set of conditions that, if present:
- demonstrate good practice through a step-by-step risk assessment approach
- allow assessment of the current situation using pre-existing data, surveys and other techniques
- promote active discussion and working in partnership with employees and their representatives, to help decide on practical improvements that can be made
- help simplify risk assessment for work-related stress by:
- identifying the main risk factors
- helping employers focus on the underlying causes and their prevention
- providing a yardstick by which organisations can gauge their performance in tackling the key causes of stress
They cover six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health, lower productivity and increased accident and sickness absence rates. The Management Standards are:
- Demands – this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment
- Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work
- Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues
- Relationships – this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
- Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles
- Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation
To effectively implement the Management Standards approach it is essential that you ensure the resource, support and infrastructure for the project is in place in your organisation.
Management Standards workbook
The implementation process detailed here is supported by a workbook which provides tips, advice and guidance from people who have gone through the process. It includes a selection of checklists to allow you to be sure that each step has been achieved before you move on.