Data from the Labour Force Survey showed that in 2018 to 2019, a total of 12.8 million working days were lost because of work-related stress, anxiety and depression and such incidences have increased steadily since 2014. Mental health was the most common type of work-related ill-health, accounting for 44% of work-related illness, and such cases were more prevalent among women than men. The cost to an employer for each employee whose mental health needs are unsupported is £1,300 per year.
Employers have a legal obligation to take reasonable care for the safety of their employees under common law and the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. This duty applies to both physical and mental health. If the employee has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse impact on the person’s ability to do normal day-to-day activities, the impairment may amount to a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 if.
What claims can be brought for work- related stress?
An employee suffering with work-related stress may be able to bring claims for personal injury and disability discrimination, as well as potential claims for breach of contract and constructive dismissal (in the event the employee resigns in response to the employer’s treatment of them) and unfair dismissal (in the event an employee who has been on sick leave due to stress is subsequently dismissed).
The reasons for work-related stress
Recent research by the CIPD demonstrates that unmanageable workloads and “management style” are the top two causes of stress-related absence and that organisations need to understand better what is driving ill-health and unhealthy working practices, like presenteeism, to improve employee wellbeing.
The benefits of addressing wellbeing issues
Research by the Mental Health Foundation shows that addressing wellbeing at work increases productivity as much as 12%. These benefits could include higher staff retention, a more productive working environment, better staff morale and more a more collegiate and open working environment.
Employers need to ensure that they are supporting staff and providing a working environment that alleviates stressful symptoms whilst also ensuring that the workforce remains productive. Top tips for managers to achieve this include:
- Managers understand what stress and anxiety are and how the body reacts to them through training programmes
- Managers understand the demands of individual roles and how they impact on different employees
- Managers maintain an open dialogue regarding mental health, ensuring a supportive and non-judgemental environment
- Managers consider reasonable adjustments where necessary
- Managers consider implementing flexible working hours and remote working to encourage a healthy work-life balance and support not only mental health but also benefit those who have childcare or family commitments.
Not all stress is bad. However, when stress does become an issue for your workforce, employers will reap the rewards in helping staff maintain the right balance between pressure and productivity and creating a team which is both productive and has a positive attitude.
If you need any further advice regarding this or any other employment related issues, please contact our Rebecca Ellerbeck on 01344 466353.