Tom Moyes: The importance of supporting and managing stress in the workplace

StressInternational Stress Awareness Week (7 – 11 November 2022) was founded in 2018 by the International Stress Management Association, and focuses on managing stress and running campaigns against the stigma associated with stress and mental health.

Research published on 3 March 2022 by the London School of Economics and Political Science stated that work-related stress accounts for 50% of all work-related health issues and costs the British economy a minimum of £117.9 billion annually. Following this and other similar reports, there is increasing pressure for employers to understand their legal obligations to support employees.

Most mental health conditions will fall under the legal definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010, as many of them have a substantial and long-term impact on day-to-day life. Many employees living with a mental health concern will be protected from discrimination and employers will need to make reasonable adjustments to support them in the workplace.

When it comes to supporting employee wellbeing and managing stress in the workplace, there are a number of things that employers must consider.

There are several ways employers can encourage open discussions with employees about stress and their mental health to prevent staff burnout, for example through a workplace mental health and stress plan. Producing, implementing and communicating this kind of plan that promotes the good mental health of all employees, and outlines the support available for those who may need it, can be a great way to engage the workforce.

Employers are advised to promote effective people management, which can be a great tool to ensure that all employees are able to have regular and honest conversations about their health and wellbeing with their line manager, supervisor or organisational leader. Employers should encourage open conversations about mental health so that any employees who are struggling feel listened to and valued. This can be further implemented at the recruitment process to showcase to potential new employees that their mental health is a key concern for the employer.

Employers are advised to embed effective training into the workforce and support line managers as this will contribute to ensuring that they can deliver effective management practices.

Tom Moyes is a partner in employment law at Blacks Solicitors