Duty of Care – Stress at Work
The duty of care that you have to your employees for work-related stress is set out in both statutory law and common law.
Statutory law is contained in acts of parliament and regulations that set out the actions that employers should take, and the working conditions they should provide.
Common law precedent comes from the successful cases that individuals have taken against employers where they suffered ill-health as a result of work related stress caused by their employer’s negligence.
In some circumstances an employee who is suffering ill-health due to work related stress might be defined as having a disability, and therefore fall under equality legislation.
You need to give consideration to whether their illness is having a substantial and adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal duties, whether it is likely to last more than 12 months, and could re-occur.
As an employer you have a legal obligation to try to identify any problems that your organisation might be having with work related stress.
In practice this means using a range of analytic and anecdotal measures to find out what’s going on.
Engaging employees directly, for instance through safety representatives, will help you understand what their perspective is, and help you identify what might be causing excessive workplace pressure.
Legal Principles – What the Law says
- You have a duty to identify significant and foreseeable risks to employee health (Health & Safety at Work)
- You have a duty to prevent harm to employee health that is foreseeable and caused by work (Common Law Negligence)
- You have a duty to consider any physical or mental impairment that has a substantial or long-term effect on their ability to work (Equality Legislation)
- You have a duty to consult with employees on health and safety matters. (Consultation with Employees & safety Representatives)
Core Requirements to Comply with the Law
You need to be proactive in considering what factors could cause ill-health or exacerbate existing health conditions (including those that have not necessarily been ‘created’ in the work environment).
The law states that you should:
- Take reasonable steps to examine the workplace to identify risk
- Identify possible sources of stress that could foresee-ably cause employee ill-health
- Take notice of signs of harm to employees that are plain enough for you to realise that preventative or protective action is required
- Consider existing health needs or disabilities on the employee’s ability to carry out their work
- Expect that employees can withstand normal pressures of work.
Employer Actions – What You Can Do To Achieve Legal Compliance
There are a number of actions that you can take to gather data and evidence on the nature of any problem you may have with work-related stress, including:
- Engaging and consulting with safety representatives
- Setting up specific focus groups to review issues of work-related stress
- Reviewing the results of employee satisfaction surveys or stress surveys and actioning their findings
- Reviewing the findings of risk assessments
- Analysing sickness absence data, turnover rates, and so on
All of the above requirements and guidelines are neatly ‘packaged up’ within the process known as the ‘Management Standards’, a set of working parameters and methodologies that are designed to demonstrate not only legal compliance but also a range of pro-active strategies that allow your business to thrive.
Management Standards Consulting
If you would like some help implementing the HSE Management Standards in your business then TranceForm Psychology Business Services can help.
We offer multi-disciplinary expert help through our core delivery team, including expertise in:
- Corporate Governance – Paul has held senior directorships in local SME’s as well as a BSc honours degree in psychology and social psychology
- NEBOSH NGC Level 3 Occupational Health & Safety certification (Paul)
- PhD. Level counselling psychology certification – Dr. Somal plays a central role in programme development
We are able to undertake risk assessments for work related stress as well as make a general gap-analysis of where your company ‘is’ in terms of internal structures, policies and deployment of the standards defined by the HSE.
Find out more about our Mental Health at Work services here:
Find Out More About Mental Health at Work Services
If you'd like to find out more about how we can help your business to manage mental health at work issues, or to discuss our training services, then please get in touch here.