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Half of all workplace illness caused by work-related stress, anxiety and depression

View profile for Danielle Lister
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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recently published a report which has confirmed that work-related stress, anxiety and depression has contributed to a staggering fifty percent of all work-related cases of illness over the past year. It suggested that during 2020/2021, some 822,000 workers suffered from a new case of work-related sickness and of that number, 451,000 workers cited stress, anxiety or depression as the reason for the sickness. The report shows that cases of self-reported stress, anxiety and depression had been on an upwards trajectory even before the pandemic but since the pandemic, the rate has continued to rise. Before the COVID19 pandemic, workers had cited as the main causes for these issues as workload, lack of support, violence, threats or bullying and changes at work. However, perhaps unsurprisingly, the pandemic and direct effects of associated issues such as lock-downs and working from home, are causing further mental ill-health problems for workers.

The report's findings highlights the cost and significant impact of mental ill-health in the workplace and the need for employers to take steps to mitigate the risks around the issue.  Employers should be actively considering how to address this within their own organisation. There are a variety of things that employers can do to try and address this prevent issues from escalating, such as:

  • Understand the causes of stress within your workforce and take step to address or minimise them wherever possible;
  • Be aware of and train managers on the signs of stress; spotting this early will assist with early intervention and preventing an issue from escalating further;
  • Adopt an open and transparent work culture where problems and concerns can be shared and discussed; make sure managers are accessible and approachable;
  • Undertake stress risk assessments to identify the key issues within your workplace and how these might be prevented.  There is a legal duty on employers with more than five employees to undertake risk assessments to protect employees from stress at work by undertaking risk assessments and acting on the findings;
  • Implement a Stress at Work policy to ensure that your organisation has considered the issue carefully, and how you will deal with it.  Inform employee's that the organisation operates the policy so they know where to go for guidance and information and ensure staff (and managers) are trained on its use;
  • Consider your organisations' demands on employees and whether they are appropriate/reasonable and avoid working practices or cultures where employees regularly feel under excessive pressure or are at risk of suffering 'burn out';
  • Remember that mental ill-health can constitute a disability under the Equality Act 2010.  In these cases, consider whether 'reasonable adjustments' might be necessary to accommodate this and ensure that workers are being treated appropriately and fairly, and never suffering any less favourable (discriminatory) treatment as a result of their ill-health;
  • Take legal advice in the event you consider a work-related issue is escalating and there is a risk of an Employment Tribunal claim against the business.  Early guidance and interventions on how to deal with a tricky situation can prevent significant problems (and costly litigation) from arising later down the line.

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If you are an employer who needs guidance with managing the impacts of mental health in the workplace or putting a policy in place, we are here to help.  Please do not hesitate to contact our friendly Employment Law team on 01205 351114 or 01522 814638.

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