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Workplace stress – rights and responsibilities

Luke Whitmore - Law on the Web

  1. 04 November 2015
  2. Employment
  3. 0 comments
Stressed man at computer

For National Stress Awareness Day, we’re taking a look at what the law says your employer needs to do about stress. In the long term, workplace stress can lead to a range of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, so employers are expected to take steps to limit the risk of this happening.

The responsibilities of your employer

Your employer has a ‘duty of care’ towards you (and all employees), which means that they must do their best to prevent you from coming to harm in the workplace. As well as more obvious health and safety issues, they should also take measures to prevent employees suffering from excessive stress in their jobs. They will be expected to do this as part of the risk assessment which employers are expected to carry out to ensure that any health risks are mitigated.

This means they need to have looked at the possibility of stress-related illnesses amongst their workforce and put policies in place to ensure this is dealt with. This might include providing employees with information about how to reduce stress and what to do if they are struggling, supplying counselling services which employees can make use of, implementing processes in ways which will not lead to excessive stress among the workforce, and so on.

The exact details will depend on the kind of work that their employees are doing, but they must be able to show that they have thought about the issue and considered appropriate solutions.

What you can do

While employers are expected to take the initiative on tackling stress in the workplace, you would still be expected to let your employer know if you are suffering from it. You should also inform them if you think someone else is at risk from excess stress.

If you’re bringing the issue of workplace stress to your employer, it’s best to also come up with some suggestions for how they might be able to improve the situation – for example, an improved workflow may reduce the pressure on you or other employees. It’s often easier for the people doing the work to figure out ways it could be done better.

Another benefit of letting your employer know if you are suffering from stress is that it will ensure that they cannot insist they didn’t know about the situation if your stress worsens and you need to bring a claim against them in the future.

If you develop a long-term mental health issue as a result of stress in the workplace, you may count as having a disability under the Equality Act. For more guidance on this, take a look at our recent blog post regarding mental health issues in the workplace.

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