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Workplace stress

Workplace stress


You have a legal duty to help reduce any stress caused by work.

When considering the stress risks, the Health and Safety Executives (HSE, and HSENI in Northern Ireland) suggest that employers use a method based on a set of Management Standards. This will provide employers with a comprehensive risk assessment that will identify, investigate and deal with work-related stress.

The Management Standards

The Management Standards define the characteristics of an organisation and cover the 6 primary sources of work-related stress. It's used to help identify the source of stress in an organisation's business culture.

The 6 primary sources of work-related stress are:

1. Demands — workloads, work patterns and the work environment

2. Control — how much say the person has in the way they do their work

3. Support — the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues

4. Relationships — promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour

5. Role — whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they don't have conflicting roles

6. Change — how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation

You need to consider how these 6 factors apply to your business operations. See either What are the Management Standards? or, in Northern Ireland, What are the management standards for work-related stress? for more information.

When you're deciding who may be harmed by the risks, you could:

The best approach will depend on the size and type of your organisation, and may be a combination of all 3 methods.

Individual differences

Although the risk assessment process takes a collective, proactive approach, individual differences and problems will exist. You therefore need to develop a rapport with staff through regular meetings and informal chats.

You should encourage your staff to raise concerns if they have any. Make sure they know where to go for help and ensure managers know what to do in order to help them.

You're not expected to risk assess your employees' jobs, as a job shouldn't itself be inherently stressful. It's how a worker interacts with their job that can result in stress. A job may be stressful for one person but not for another, so the key is matching the individual to the job.

Mental health at work

Prolonged work-related stress can cause mental health problems like anxiety and depression. It can also worsen pre-existing mental health conditions. Employers therefore have a legal responsibility to protect their staff's mental health. If a risk assessment identifies a mental health risk, employers must take steps to remove or reduce the risk.

If an employee has a pre-existing mental health condition, employers need to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that they're not put at a disadvantage when compared to employees without mental health conditions.

You should keep in regular contact with your staff and try to create an environment where people feel able to be open and honest about how they are feeling.

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