You may have workers who are stressed because they are unable to cope with pressures at work.
Employers are legally responsible to protect employees from work-related stress by conducting a risk assessment and taking appropriate action.
Failing to control stress can cause significant risks to your employees' mental health and to your business.
In this guide, we'll discuss what a stress risk assessment is, the law around it, and how to carry it out in your company.
What is a stress risk assessment?
A stress risk assessment is a thorough analysis of the factors in a workplace that may cause employees to experience mental health issues.
Work-related stress is the negative reaction people have when going through excessive pressure from demands put on them at work.
A stress risk assessment helps you decide whether you have done enough or whether you should do more to prevent stress in the workplace. They also help pinpoint stress risks so that they can be resolved before they cause major costs for the business.
Why are stress risk assessments important?
Employers have a general duty to ensure their employees' health at work under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This involves taking precautions to shield workers from a possible stress-related illness brought on by their job.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 also puts a legal duty on employers to carry out risk assessments.
The purpose of stress risk assessments is to identify and prevent harm to the health, safety, and welfare of the workforce. As an employer, you must:
- Evaluate the risk of stress amongst your staff members.
- Take action to remove the risk.
- Mitigate the risk as much as you can if removal is not possible.
Who should carry out stress risk assessments?
It's the employer’s legal duty to conduct risk assessments on work performed by their staff. In practice, you can delegate this duty to a competent person, provided that they give legally competent for the job.
If your organisation employs five or more individuals, the results should be documented. You should also include measures for vulnerable employees, like older, younger, pregnant or disabled employees.
How to carry out a stress risk assessment at work
The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has its own description of a typical risk assessment process, which includes the following steps:
- Step 1: Identify the hazards.
- Step 2: Analyse the risks.
- Step 3: Control the risks.
- Step 4: Keep a record of your findings.
- Step 5: Review the assessment regularly.
In order to help simplify risk assessments, the Health and Safety Executive created a framework called the ‘Management Standards’. The framework outlines six factors that, if not properly managed, might lead to work-related stress. These include:
For each of the six factors above, the HSE requires employers to have local systems set up so that staff members can easily address any specific concerns.
Below are the factors and their associated requirements in more detail:
This factor covers issues including workload, work patterns, and the workplace itself. The HSE expects that your employees show that they can cope with their job responsibilities.
As an employer, you should be:
- Setting reasonable expectations for your employees in relation to the agreed-upon working hours.
- Ensuring job demands are matched to each person's skills and abilities.
- Ensuring that the capabilities of your employees are taken into account when assigning jobs.
- Ensuring that you respond to employee concerns regarding the workplace.
The control factor refers to how much authority a person has over how their work is carried out. The HSE expects that your employees have the option to choose how they carry out their work.
As an employer, you should be:
- Giving your workers control over their pace of work.
- Encouraging your staff to do their work using their skills and creativity.
- Encouraging staff to learn new skills to help them take on new and difficult tasks (if possible).
- Encouraging staff to improve their abilities.
- Allowing individuals to choose when they can take breaks.
- Consulting your employees over their work patterns.
This covers the encouragement, support, training, and resources provided by the organisation, line management, and colleagues for doing the job. The HSE expects that your staff members receive appropriate information and support from their managers and colleagues.
As an employer, you should be:
- Developing policies and procedures to provide enough support to your staff.
- Putting systems in place for the management team to support their personnel.
- Putting systems in place for staff members to help their colleagues.
- Informing your workforce about the available support and how and when to get it.
- Training your staff on how to find the resources they need to perform their jobs.
- Ensuring that your staff receive constructive feedback regularly.
This factor is about promoting positive working to avoid conflict in the workplace. It also includes dealing with unacceptable behaviour, which can be difficult and stressful.
The HSE expects that your employees are free of inappropriate workplace behaviour such as bullying. As an employer, you should be:
- Promoting positive behaviours in the workplace and ensuring fairness.
- Making sure that your employees share work-related information.
- Developing policies to prevent or handle unacceptable behaviour.
- Making sure that systems are in place that allow senior managers to deal with misbehaviour.
- Making sure that systems are in place that allow your staff members to report misbehaviour.
This factor is about making sure people understand their role in the working environment. It's used to analyse whether the organisation ensures its employees don't have conflicting roles.
The HSE expects that your staff demonstrate an understanding of their work duties. As an employer, you should be:
- Making sure that the various requirements put on staff are compatible.
- Providing information to your staff so that they can fully understand their roles and duties.
- Making every effort to ensure that the expectations you impose on your staff are as clear as possible.
- Ensuring that processes are in place to allow your staff to voice any doubts or conflicts in their roles.
This factor is about how large or small organisational changes are managed and communicated.
The HSE expects that your employees feel that the business usually engages them when undertaking organisational changes. As an employer, you should be:
- Providing your staff with accurate information to help them understand the reasoning for proposed changes.
- Ensuring that your staff are properly consulted about any changes and that they have opportunities to influence initiatives.
- Ensuring that your staff are aware of the potential consequences of any changes to their jobs. They should be trained if necessary to keep up with any changes in their roles.
- Communicating any changing schedules to your staff.
- Providing all your workers with assistance throughout the changes.
Get advice on stress risk assessment from Peninsula
Work-related stress is one of the risks that needs consideration by employers. As an employer, you should protect your employees' mental health by conducting a stress risk assessment and taking appropriate action.
Failure to manage workplace stress can harm your employees' mental health and badly affect your business.
Peninsula offers 24/7 Health & Safety advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our experts.
Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 029 4376 and book a free consultation with one of our Health & Safety consultants.