What are the Stress-Management Obligations on Businesses in 2019?

6th November 2019 by

The first Wednesday of every November marks National Stress Awareness Day.

Healys are proud to support the #NSAD campaign and are dedicated to the promotion of discussion around stress in the workplace.

We see National Stress Awareness Day as an opportunity for organisations to reflect on whether they are fulfilling their duty as an employer to manage stress within the workplace and the potential impact this can have on their business.


What are the benefits of effective stress management within the workplace for Employers?

It is not only in the interest of employees to have a low-stress work environment; there are also significant benefits to an organisation. A study conducted by Farleigh Dickinson University identifies the impact that the symptoms of stress in the workplace can have on a business. Farleigh Dickinson’s conclusions indicate that by effectively managing stress in the workplace, an employer can achieve:

  • A stronger company culture
  • Higher overall productivity
  • Higher employee retention and talent acquisition
  • Lower medical insurance and other stress-related expenses (including potential employment claims)

All of these benefits ultimately result in greater productivity and thus higher revenue for a business.


So what are the legal obligations as an Employer?

The law says that employers are responsible for the safety of their employees while they are at work; and this extends to managing stress.

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers have an obligation to assess the nature and scale of health risks at work, including those related to or caused by stress.  Therefore, once an employer knows that a staff member is or may be at risk of a stress related illness or injury, they must investigate the problem and identify what they can do to resolve it.

In addition most public sector organisations are covered by the Public Sector Equality Duty contained in the Equality Act 2010. The purpose of this duty is to make sure employers pay ”due regard” to the promotion of equality.  This includes those with a disability, who statistically are likely to be more prone to stress at work.

Aside from an employers’ legal obligations, excessive levels of stress are ultimately destructive to both an individual and the business they work for. It is therefore in the interest of a business to ensure they have effective tools in place to manage workplace stress.


Practical steps an Employer can take to prevent stress in the workplace

Although stress within a workplace cannot be completely eliminated, there are a number of practical steps an employer can take to reduce the likelihood of workplace stress and to tackle stress related issues should they occur. These include:

  • Identifying and addressing existing issues- Ensure the business has an effective risk assessment policy in place to identify the areas where the organisation may be performing poorly. The risk assessment should include identifying the potential causes of stress in the workplace. Stress can be caused by a number of factors including: long hours and shift work; lack of control or insecurity; lack of job satisfaction; and problems with the working environment (such as temperature, noise, inadequate equipment). Such issues should be identified through the implementation of an effective risk assessment policy.


  • Training programmes- Provide training to management in how to spot when staff may be experiencing stress. It is important not to make assumptions. There are, however, general signs that a staff member may be suffering from stress including: changes in their usual behaviour; a change in their standard of work or focus on tasks; appearing withdrawn, anxious or tired; an increase in sickness absences.


  • Effective HR policies- Ensure the business has an easily accessible Stress Management Policy which is made available to all employees and sets out how the business approaches stress related issues in the workplace. Also it is important that an organisation’s Sickness Policy properly provides for sickness absence caused by stress.


  • Stress Awareness Space- The mental health charity Mind recommends creating a ‘Stress Awareness Space’ at your workplace. This space is designed to encourage conversations about stress and is a safe place where staff can share their thoughts and feelings when they are experiencing stress.


  • Stress Management Resources- We acknowledge that for some people stress is not solely related to their employment, and it may be that staff members are instead going through highly stressful times caused by pressures outside of work. A way to help these employees is to point them to resources to better handle their stress and get through a difficult time. Such resources are available from charities such as Mind and the International Stress Management Association.

For more information or assistance with managing stress related issues in the workplace, please contact Allison Grant (Head of Employment at Healys LLP) at Allison.Grant@healys.com or call 020 7822 4000.

More details of the employment services Healys provides are available here: