Workplace stress is certainly viewed as a major problem by employers and trade unions, and has been since the 1980s.
Your employer’s duty to take reasonable care of your health and safety extends to your mental health, and this includes taking reasonable steps to combat work-related stress.
The HSE approaches stress through its Management Standards for workplace stress. These are the standards an organisation should be aiming to achieve in order to effectively manage and control workplace stress levels. There is more information about the Management Standards on the HSE website. The standards include:
- Demands – covering issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment;
- Control – how much say someone has over the way they do their work;
- Support – including the support and encouragement provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues;
- Relationships – including promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour;
- Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles.
- Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.
Also see the TUC guide to using the Management Standards.
There have been a few well publicised legal claims in the courts for compensation for psychiatric injury caused by workplace stress. However in reality, successful cases involving this kind of harm are extremely rare.