Stress at work: employer responsibilities
There is a legal requirement for employers to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate employees at work who may be suffering from depression or another psychiatric illness.
Employers also have a legal requirement to assess and to minimise the risk of stress induced illness or injury to employees from a health and safety perspective.
How to address employees with stress:
Employers can address stress and potential depression caused by work in a number of ways, including: carrying out an audit; using return to work interviews and procedures; training managers in particular in regard to the causes of stress at work; how to identifying symptoms and how to address things such as workloads.
Identifying pressures at work as an employer
An important distinction is made between abnormal pressure that is beyond a worker’s ability to cope as opposed to normal pressures at work, which an employer is entitled to expect people to handle without adverse effect. So the more senior and experienced an employee is, the more an employer is entitled to expect, particularly if there are certain times of the year where longer hours and pressures are an inevitable part of the way in which the employer operates.
Helping employees who are stressed at work
A useful tip for employers is to provide employees with access to appropriate counselling or treatment services. This can often be done through their general insurance policy.
The Government’s Fit for Work Scheme
This was launched on 15 December 2014 and has been put in place to offer impartial advice to employers for dealing with long term sickness absence and to provide very important support and a new approach to dealing with stress related absence.
The full service is expected to be available nationally by May 2015. Until then a website and telephone advice line is available to enable all employees and employers to obtain free and impartial work related heath advice. The expectation is that following full implementation GPs will refer 54 percent of patients to the Fit for Work service.
Using the Fit for Work service
The scheme will provide free health and work advice, accessed via a website and telephone helpline to help with absence prevention including advice on adjustments and free referrals for an occupational health assessment for employees who have reached, or whose GP expects them to reach, four weeks of sickness absence. There are initially two concerns. First of all; that employees will not give their consent and without that a referral to Fit for Work cannot be made. Secondly, is whether case workers will fully understand the employer’s business; the actual job roles or the availability of suitable roles.
Advice to employers about the Fit to Work Scheme
Employers should very rapidly consider reviewing their sickness absence policies and procedures and contracts and consider making it an express contractual requirement that employees consent to a referral to the Fit for Work service or indeed any other medical examination required in connection with their employment.
The four week referral period is likely, in due course to be become the default expectation on employers.
Speak to an employment law solicitor
If you have any questions, or would like any advice, about handling situations involving employees with stress, you can call to speak with one of our expert Employment Law solicitors today. We have three main offices in Leicestershire, feel free to call or you can make an appointment to see us at your local office, by clicking on the links below:
Leicester call us on 0116 254 8871.
Hinckley call us on 01455 639 900.
Market Harborough call us on 01858 467 181.