HSE published guidance
The following documents are free:
EC Social Partners voluntary agreement guidance
The Confederation of British Industries (CBI), Trades Union Congress (TUC), European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation and of Enterprises of General Economic Interest (CEEP) UK and Forum of Private Business (FPB), working together in partnership with HSE and the DTI have jointly drawn up this guidance. It was drafted to:
- provide a framework to help identify and prevent work-related stress and deal with it effectively
- create awareness among employers, employees and their representatives about work-related stress
Work-related stress: What the law says
This guidance, developed for HSE with the help of Acas, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and Health, Work and Well-being, summarises the legal duties that employers have to reduce and, where possible, prevent work-related stress impacting on the health of their employees. It provides a starting point to help understand the legal requirements, and suggests actions that employers can take to help not just comply with the law, but improve the working conditions for all employees.
Line managers’ resource: A practical guide to managing and supporting people with mental health problems in the workplace
This resource was developed by Shift, the Department of Health’s programme to reduce stigma and discrimination directed towards people with mental health problems. It was part of Shift’s ‘Action on Stigma’ initiative aimed at supporting employers to promote good mental health and reduce discrimination.
HSE’s work-related stress statistics page provides statistical information and detail on stress incidence, prevalence and working days lost, taken from the annual Labour Force Survey. Further information is also gathered via the THOR-GP data. A poster of the latest statistical data is available.
HSE Management Standards and stress-related work outcomes
This research paper was produced, to assess the impact of the Management Standards on work-related stress outcomes published by the Society of Occupational Medicine. It investigated the relationship between the Management Standards and 'job satisfaction', job-related anxiety and depression and errors/near misses.
A summary of the evidence
These papers describe the evidence behind our approach to tackling stress, the development and validation of the Management Standards and review the associated Stress Indicator Tool and its effectiveness.
A summary of the evidence of the need to evaluate line management competency
Research shows a major cause of work-related stress is how managers manage staff and stress. These reports describe the evidence behind tools that help managers evaluate their skills and identify whether their behaviours promote stress or help to minimise and resolve stress:
Workplace interventions for people with common mental health problems
This review provides evidence-based answers on questions about mental ill health in the workplace to help managers, occupational health professionals and others make management decisions and offer advice.
- Workplace interventions for people with common mental health problems: Evidence review and recommendations
HSE contract research reports on work-related stress
Those who want more detail may be interested in the following set of research reports. To access all HSE's research reports search our research site.
To access all HSE's research reports search our research site.
24hr connectivity/tablets and mobile phones
As work patterns and technology changes many of us are now working away from workplaces and have become more reliant of mobile phones, tablets and laptops which allow us to maintain contact with ‘the office’. Used properly these can be useful and helpful – if you’re out visiting a customer they can give us directions, warn us of travel difficulties, and get emails and messages.
However, they can become a stressor when used to contact people out of normal working hours. Pressure is cumulative and as long as people are given sufficient opportunity to recover, does not always result in stress – contacting people outside their normal working time is reducing this recovery time and may have an adverse effect.
If you have workers using such equipment it would be useful to have a policy that explains the approved use of the equipment outside work hours and getting line managers to sign up to it – this should include a cut-off point after which it is accepted that emails will not receive a response or be considered. The policy may include provision that users should switch off their units whilst on leave.
Bullying and harassment
Bullying and harassment are behaviours that make someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended and can contribute to work-related stress.
They are often covered by legislation, for example Equalities Act where it is targeted, the Protection from Harassment Act or even criminal law where violence is involved. You can find out more about tackling harassment and bullying at work from:
Presenteeism means people attending work even though they are unwell due to physical or mental health conditions. Presenteeism can be a major concern if people won’t take time to recover because, for example, they:
- don’t get paid when they are off sick
- are worried about losing their job
- don’t want to adversely affect their promotion chances
- don’t want to add to other people’s pressure because they are covering for them
When people are ill they are less productive, can’t fully concentrate, are more prone to making errors or having accidents and may be infectious, causing others to become ill.
Find out more about presenteeism.
PTSD is a psychological and physical condition affecting people who have experienced or witnessed profoundly traumatic events. It can affect people in work which exposes them to war (such as soldiers) or disaster (such as emergency service workers).
A risk-based approach can help identify where incidents might happen. Preparing employees with training and other steps, such as psychometric testing, may help avoid or minimise the impact.
You can find out more about PTSD from:
Find out how managers can support employees with mental health issues.
Resilience and Mindfulness training
Resilience and mindfulness training are developed to make people think about the pressures they are experiencing in a different way. This mitigates to some degree the negative impact these pressures have – they are sometimes called coping mechanisms.
However these are targeted initiatives that benefit those who have been trained, they do not tackle or remove the cause of the stress and consequently stop the build-up of the negative impact. This may simply delay the problem rather than remove it.
Whilst these kind of initiatives can help people who are or may be experiencing stress, they are not the whole solution. Interventions of this type alone are unlikely to be sufficient to tackle work related stress and may mean an employer is not fully meeting their legal duty.
HSE promotes the use of preventative measures that tackle the stressors at an organisational level. The actions taken then prevent work-related stress developing in the whole workforce, or in groups of staff. Research has shown that approaches that include a combination of organisational and other approaches is more effective for tackling stress.
Return to work
If staff take time off work because of work-related stress, getting them back to work as quickly as possible is important, particularly for them. A well-managed early return to work will reduce the risk of the absence becoming long term (that is longer than a month). In general, people find it more difficult to return to work the longer they are absent. Fit for Work provides free, confidential and impartial work-related health advice to employers and employees. It offers expert help from occupational health professionals to help people return to work after sickness absence.
HSE has also produced a return-to-work questionnaire you may find useful.
Well-being is a measure of satisfaction and happiness. It is a generic term for many initiatives to promote good health ranging from massage or yoga to five-a-day and smoking cessation schemes. These are aimed at the individual workers and only help the individuals taking part, improving their health.
BITC has developed material about managing emotional well-being to help managers build team resilience, which may be helpful.
While this kind of initiative can make people feel better, they are not designed specifically tackle work-related stress or its causes and using just these interventions, an employer is not fully meeting their legal duty.
HSE promotes the use of preventative measures that tackle the stressors at an organisational level. The actions taken then prevent work-related stress developing in the whole workforce, or in groups of staff. Research has shown that approaches that includes a combination of organisational and other approaches, such as resilience or mindfulness training, is more effective for tackling stress.
Shift work, lone working and other non-standard working hours can negatively impact on employees’ welfare.
For example, lone workers do not have the ‘social’ side of work. They may face additional risks of violence or abuse. It is not easy for their manager to monitor their welfare, which may lead to health problems. Short-term or zero-hour contracts can also present problems for employees, particularly worries about money and job security.
People working from home may have some specific needs to be considered, for example one of the six Management Standards relates to support from both peers and managers, clearly being a way from colleagues could mean good support is more difficult to achieve.
Find out more about shift working, lone working and homeworking.