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Dealing with stress in the workplace

07 May 2010 #Employment

A study out today states that stress at work raises the risk of heart disease for women under 50. The British Heart Foundation encourages employees and employers alike to  tackle stress in the workplace.

For many employers `stress` is a dirty word. However, speak to most employees and they will tell you it is an everyday reality in the workplace. There is no doubt that stress in the workplace has a detrimental impact on a business whether through sickness absence or reduced productivity, so employers should deal with the issue head on rather than ignoring it. Encourage communications between all levels of your staff so that you can identify the cause, resolve it and move on. This will be to the benefit of both parties.

What kind of measures can you take? An issue outside of work may be at the root and the individual may benefit from some holiday or unpaid leave to deal with it. It may be as simple as assisting the employee to orgnaise his work better or redistributing work amongst the team. There may be a lack of communication between manager and subordinate or a breakdown in relations. If an internal transfer is neither possible nor desirable, consider some form of mediation, whether it is internal or external. If it is a case of bullying or discriminaiton the employer needs to deal with it promptly through the disciplinary procedure.

Employers need to be aware that once they have been put on notice that the individual is suffering from work related stress they are under a duty to take reasonable steps to deal with it. Failure to do so may leave the employer open to personal injury claims and/or disability discrimination claims.

So why are employers so cynical? Employers can get frustrated with employees playing the `stress card` for example when they are being disciplined or going through a redundancy situation. The majority of us would find these situations stressful, but unfortunately being signed off with stress rarely assists either party as it usually only serves to prolong the process. 

In such situations employers can employ a number of tactics to progress the process such as changing the manager conducting the meeting, offering meetings at a neutral venue, telephone conferences in place of face to face meetings, opening up the companion to friends or family (although this cancause more problems than it solves so be careful!). If the employee rejects all such offers the employer can request a medical report as to when the employee will be fit enough to continue. If the individual refuses to cooperate at all, a last resort is to conduct the meeting in their absence.

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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