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Santander's proactive approach

Who are they?

Santander UK plc is a wholly owned subsidiary of the global Santander Banking Group. This is a highly successful banking operation that has a strong presence in Europe South and North America providing comprehensive retail, commercial and investment banking services.

No of employees:
24,000 staff over a network of 1300 branches  
Business Sector:
Banking and Finance

Why we first became involved in Stress Management?

At Santander we believe that healthy employees working in a safe environment enhance our business and help us achieve their corporate objectives. We know that high standards of health and safety are not only good business practice, but also a positive investment that protects our people who are clearly our most valuable asset.

The financial sector has gone through some stormy waters in recent years. High pressure working against a backdrop of organisational change has become commonplace. The Health, Safety and Wellbeing team (HSW) knows that organisational change and pressure are well documented stress risk factors. The team uses HR Management Information (HRMI) to continually monitor the impact on staff and provide support to take prompt and effective action where required.

This information helped the HSW team identify work related stress (WRS) as a significant, emerging operational risk.

What action was taken?

From the outset it was appreciated that a significant knowledge gap might exist and that action was required to deliver capability to line managers.

A comprehensive stress management plan was developed which included the following key tools;

Formal consultation was undertaken with trade unions and they support the policy.

A face to face manager's training course was developed followed by an easily accessible e:learning solution for line managers. Santander's in-house Regional Health and Safety Consultants are available to provide on-site coaching and support for managers to ensure competence, and indeed confidence, in implementing bank policy.

Stress risk assessments

A core element of our action plan has been the implementation of a clearly documented stress risk assessment procedure. Managers concerned about levels of pressure in their departments and the effects on staff, complete a documented stress risk assessment.

Regional Health and Safety Consultants support managers in completing assessments ensuring comprehensive, systematic evaluations are undertaken. The pro forma implements HSE's Management Standards, identifying and controlling risk factors associated with;

Working together

When implementing the plan, managers are encouraged to make sure staff do not feel that WRS is a personal problem but rather a legitimate operational risk that the business is committed to addressing. Managers and staff use the pro forma, working together to identify key stress risk factors, setting down and agreeing clear, written action plans with reasonable timescales for implementation.

Taking action

Our guidelines emphasise that taking prompt and effective controlling action is the critical part of a stress risk assessment. Managers and staff are required to implement the defined action plan within agreed timescales. A formal review is then required to make sure identified risk factors have been controlled.

Employee support

Santander understands that documented risk assessments with written action plans may not always be enough to support staff affected by WRS to remain in or return to work.

At Santander staff have access to a confidential Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) including a telephone helpline and face- to- face counselling in appropriate cases. Regular promotion is undertaken to raise awareness across the Bank and to encourage uptake.

Successful implementation

Following roll out, Dave Moore, Head of Health, Safety and Wellbeing reflects on the key milestones facilitating a successful outcome.


Interestingly David concludes that the key elements of a well defined Health and Safety Management System (as per HSG 65), are equally effective in managing traditional physical and now emergent "psychological risks” in the workplace.

As ever senior management commitment and key stakeholder buy-in and support remain essential pre-requisites to successful health and safety management.

Ana Botin, Santander's Chief Executive Officer, has issued a clear statement of her policy on health and safety committing managers and staff across the business to high standards of health and safety.

Ana's policy acknowledges "up front” the requirement for measures to help employees manage the everyday pressures of their work effectively and maintain a healthy work/life balance. The policy also provides a clear commitment to actively promote physical and mental health and wellbeing and to support people during challenging times.

This has led to recent emphasis being placed on employee support activities including initiatives to promote physical and, more importantly during times of unprecedented organisational change and fierce competition in the marketplace, mental health.

A formally documented Health and Safety Management System (based on HSE Guidance, HSG 65) has been issued across the business. A very low accident experience reflects this investment.

The system includes a streamlined, user- friendly Managing Safety booklet for managers and a Working Safely booklet for staff. A comprehensive, fully integrated health and safety e:learning solution is available to everyone; with key courses made mandatory.

Updated 2012-11-05