Are you aware of the fact that your employees are going through stressful periods? The truth is that stress, depression, and anxiety that relate to working at a daily job are very common. From the legal side, you simply have to be aware of the Health and Safety at Work Act from 1974, and Health and Safety at Work Regulations from 1999. Because, according to these, even though there is no specific law related to how you deal with your employees’ stress, you are legally responsible in terms of any illness that happens as a result of it.
So, don’t forget that every company is responsible for making their workplace a stress-free environment. You can’t eliminate it completely, of course, but you can do your best, by managing risk assessments, monitoring any issues that may be going on, making sure that the policies are loud and clear, encouraging your staff to report to you about what is really bothering them, and, of course, analyzing the results.
Typical causes of stress at work
Generally, work-related stress happens because an employee has way too much work on their hands, doesn’t have the necessary support to get their job done, someone in the workplace is bullying them, or simply the whole working environment isn’t working out as you have planned. There could also be external influences like disability, relationship problems, or loss of a family member or a friend.
Whatever the stress is caused by, it is crucial that the employer knows about it, so encouraging self-reporting is essential. Any stressful situation that isn’t obvious will most probably not be noticed by others in the company, so there is hardly a way to get support and make use of legal rights.
HR and health and safety managers
These are the people whose main duty is to help employers to proactively approach any problems related to stress in the workplace. In order to do this properly, certain issues need to be taken into consideration:
Every possible risk needs to be properly assessed and reviewed. You need to be aware of all the systems that exist for this purpose, and whether they are actually working out
Make sure that you are as updated as possible when it comes to best practices related to stress at work
Take a good look at the whole system of risk assessment. If it needs any changes, it might mean that the whole management might need to be updated
Provide your staff with all the necessary information about stress-related illnesses, and let them know what their responsibilities are and what they can do
Investigate whether there is a strong connection between stress issues and your staff being absent frequently and/or for prolonged periods of time
Having the Disability Discrimination Act in mind, make sure that your employees that it medically applies to are treated as well as everyone else, and if not, make sure that this is changed immediately
Appropriate senior roles in the company need to be informed about certain issues while making sure that everything is done in strict confidentiality
What happens at the board level?
Of course, it goes without saying that directors have the greatest responsibilities when it comes to such issues. They need to be informed about any issues that are causing stress and stress-related illness in their company. Paying attention to red flags such as dropping performance, conflicts in the workplace, and increased rate of absenteeism are essential. The main thing that an employer needs to think about is how to gain evidence of this.
The whole matter of how health and safety policies are implemented is your responsibility. There needs to be an effective strategy for managing stress in place. Also, every risk needs to be assessed, monitored, and proactively discussed.
Legal reaction to a stress-related situation
You have to keep in mind that any employee can make a legal claim for stress against you as an employer if they have the proper ground for it. Such claims are usually made due to constructive dismissals and personal injuries. If a member of your staff can medically prove that they are suffering a particular mental illness, like depression, due to their work environment (and not because of any outside factors), there is a basis for a claim. It is also required that they prove that you could have been able to predict such an outcome and do something about it.
On the other hand, a claim can be made due to constructive dismissal. This requires proof that you, as an employer, have not been able to provide a safe system for them to work, and therefore have broken mutual trust and confidence. Of course, the very breach needs to be serious enough for them to quit their job. Filing a grievance is usually the step prior to this. Also, if you let an employee go as a liability because of the fact that they are stressed and therefore impacting your business’ productivity and success, they can sue you for being unfairly dismissed.
For both sides, the best idea is to seek help and advice from professionals, such as those at Chedid Storey Legal. It is always a good idea to have a legal aid at your side so that you are properly informed about every step that needs to be taken.
Stress is a pretty common thing in the workplace. It is up to you, as an employer, to make sure that there is a system in place that makes sure that any such issues are monitored, assessed, and reacted to properly. This is also why you have HR and health and safety managers are your right hand.
If an employee isn’t treated properly, they can make a legal claim against your company. So, if you want a company that works like a well-oiled machine and takes care of how its employees feel, you need to put an effort into it.