What is Stress?
The Health & Safety Executive defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon them”. This makes an important distinction between pressure and stress. Pressure, can be a positive state if managed correctly and stress, can be detrimental to health. It also makes a distinction between the beneficial effects of reasonable pressure and challenge that can be stimulating and motivating. Work related stress, is the natural but distressing reaction to demands or “pressures” that the individual perceives they cannot cope with at the given time. Stress is not a disease or diagnosable illness; however exposure to excessive pressure can results in health problems both physical and mental. Controlling and Preventative Management of Stress Evidence-based methods of practice are improving the quality of prevention of ill-health caused by work and enables practitioners to give more soundly advice. The techniques of data appraisal, systematic review and meta-analysis and their application to clinical and preventative medicine through clinical guidelines and economic analyses are well established.
Stress Wellbeing Audit
Acorn Occupational Health can provide anonymous stress/wellbeing audits which will help you to comply with health and safety regulations and will provide an insight to any stress issues that your company may have. Following this audit, problem areas may be identified and a plan can be developed to effectively manage stress in the workplace.
A comprehensive report will highlight areas of risk and Acorn Occupational Health will provide recommendations in order of priority to reduce organisational stress. These may include developing a stress policy on mental health provision, and support services.
Occupational health focuses on the protection and promotion of the health of workers by preventing and controlling occupational diseases and accidents. The aim is to eliminate occupational factors and conditions hazardous to health and safety at work. There is a focus to develop and promote healthy and safe work, working environments and organisations. This will enable workers to conduct socially and economically productive lives. (WHO, 1994).
There is no specific legislation on controlling stress at work because not enough is known to set detailed standards or requirements. There is a voluntary approved code of practice (the Health and Safety Management Standards), which is meant to guide employers in matters of work stress. However, since the Management Standards came into being in 2004, there has been little decline in work stressors in Britain. It is important to note that :-
- Employers have a duty under the Health and Safety at work etc Act 1974 to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that their workplaces are safe and healthy;
- Under the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1993 employers are obliged to assess the nature and scale of risks to health in their workplace and base their control measures on it.
- HSE advice: The HSE guidance Stress at Work: a Guide for Employers says “Ill-health from workplace stress must be treated the same way as ill-health from other physical hazards. This means that employers have a legal duty to take reasonable care to ensure that employee’s health is not placed at risk through excessive and sustained levels of stress. This can arise from the way workloads are organised, the ways people deal with each other in the work place or from the day to day demands placed on the workforce”. Employers are expected to take full account of this guidance is their policies and procedures.
- Working Time Regulations 1996. These regulations limit the working week to an average of 48 hours. However, a member of staff may, under certain circumstances, opt out of these regulations, but they must agree in writing to work more than the 48 hours.
- The Equality Act 2010. Stress-related illnesses, such as depression or mental ill-health will, in certain circumstances, secure protection under the Equality Act , including making reasonable adjustments for disabled employees
Stress is one of the most common causes of short-term and long term absence (CIPD, 2012). The HSE estimates that 2,000,000 people within the UK are currently suffering from an illness caused by, or made worse by their work environment. Ill-health can have a significant impact on productivity within a company, it is estimated that sickness absence costs the UK economy an estimated £12 billion per annum. In 2007/2008, 237,000 new cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety were reported in the previous 12 months by UK employees. Nearly half a million people in Britain report work related stress at a level that they believe is making them ill. Each case of stress related ill-health leads to an average of 30 days off work with a total of 13 and half million working days being lost in Britain each year to work-related stress.