Employers must be able to manage stress in the workplace

Article date: 13 February 2009

Norwich Union Risk Services is urging employers to be more vigilant of the signs of stress in the workplace and have procedures to manage it effectively.

According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures, work-related stress accounts for over a third of all new incidents of ill health and each case of stress-related absence is likely to lead to an average of one month off work*.

Helen Toll, health and safety consultant, Norwich Union Risk Services, says that the Samaritan's Stress Down Day on 6 February was an important reminder that stress remains a very real issue, particularly in the current economic climate.

"Stress doesn't just affect the individual; it can have a detrimental impact on a business as well. It can lead to high levels of sickness absence, increased staff turnover and poor morale, all of which can all have a knock on effect on a company's reputation and customer satisfaction."

There are some practical tips that employers need to take into consideration in relation to managing stress in the workplace, according to Toll: "Employers should establish a clear policy on stress management and other issues such as dealing with workplace harassment and bullying and violence to staff, which can be significant workplace stressors.

"Stress should be treated like any other workplace hazard. A risk assessment should be carried out, both at organisational level and within each team. It is important to work closely with employees and their representatives to identify the main sources of workplace pressure and develop realistic and workable solutions that proactively tackle the underlying causes of stress."

"Key to the successes of stress management programmes are senior management commitment, employee participation and the competence of line managers. It is essential that managers are provided with guidance and training in how to recognise the signs and symptoms of stress and understand the causes. 

"They need to be clear about their role in stress prevention and management, know how to assess the risks and deal sensitively and supportively with employees who are struggling to cope.

"Employers should provide additional support for employees experiencing stress. This could be through the business's HR department or occupational health professionals. Providing access to confidential counselling services is also recommended."

Norwich Union Risk Services has just launched a new one day training course for employers. It includes advice on legal responsibilities, approaches to stress risk management and strategies for preventing and managing workplace stress.  More details are available at www.nurs.co.uk/training/one_day_short_courses.htm

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For further information, please contact:
Elinor Graveson at Staniforth on 0161 919 8025 / 07973 360141 or Sally Leeman at Norwich Union on 01603 684 225 / 07789 270 677.

Notes to editors:

* www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/scale.htm (link removed as no longer active)

Norwich Union Risk Services is the specialist risk management division of Norwich Union that is dedicated to helping UK businesses manage their risks in an effective way.

They achieve this through their national team of approximately 180 staff which includes:

  • Risk advisers and specialists - Who visit commercial properties across the UK to help identify risks and recommend dynamic and practical risk management solutions for Norwich Union's insured customers.
  • Safety consultants - Who provide expert health, safety and environmental training and consultancy services.

Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available on the Aviva internet press centre at www.aviva.com/media.

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