Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it.
What is stress?
HSE defines stress as 'the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them'.
Employees feel stress when they can't cope with pressures and other issues. Employers should match demands to employees' skills and knowledge. For example, employees can get stressed if they feel they don't have the skills or time to meet tight deadlines. Providing planning, training and support can reduce pressure and bring stress levels down.
Stress affects people differently – what stresses one person may not affect another. Factors like skills and experience, age or disability may all affect whether an employee can cope.
There are six main areas of work design which can effect stress levels. You should manage these properly. They are:
Employers should assess the risks in these areas to manage stress in the workplace.
Signs of stress
Stress is not an illness but it can make you ill. Recognising the signs of stress will help employers to take steps to stop, lower and manage stress in their workplace.
How to help
The earlier a problem is tackled the less impact it will have. If you think that an employee is having problems, encourage them to talk to someone, whether it's their line manager, trade union representative, GP or their occupational health team.
Help for line managers to have simple, practical conversations with employees which can help prevent stress is available in our Talking Toolkits (PDF) .
To protect employees from stress at work, employers should assess risks to their health. These example stress risk assessments may help.
You may need to develop individual action plans for employees suffering from stress. HSE's Management Standards may also help you to identify and manage the six causes of stress at work.