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Stress Busters – Top Tips

National Stress Awareness Day (NSAD) is an annual event that aims to raise awareness of the harmful effects of stress. Stress is a big problem in the UK and remains one of the biggest causes of long-term sickness absence. As well as attempting to raise awareness of stress in general, NSAD also helps to assist individuals and employers in changing behaviours which may otherwise lead to excessive stress in the workplace.

To honour this year’s NSAD, we have compiled top tips for stress management methods that can help organisations identify and manage workplace stress.

1. The Fit Note

Don’t ignore a Fit Note stating work related stress!  Organise to meet with the employee to discuss any issues and maintain reasonable contact with an employee on sick leave.

Employers can also make use of the Fit for Work Service by referring employees who have been absent for 4 weeks. The service may be advantageous for employers who do not have access to their own occupational health provision and can provide guidance on managing any workplace issues.

2. Absence Management

Having well written policies and procedures on managing absence will provide guidance to both employees and managers when either short-term intermittent absences or long-term absences become a problem.

As an illness, employers can treat an employee suffering from stress in the same way as employees with another condition, save that if the stress is caused by work, employers need to show that they have taken reasonable steps to reduce or eliminate the causes of the stress.

3. Flexible Working

Enable employees to strike a healthier work/life balance by offering flexible working. Flexible working can increase employee morale, engagement and commitment to your organisation.

Employees with 26 weeks’ service now have the ability to make a flexible working request, requiring and employer to follow a statutory procedure in considering the request, only rejecting any request on one of 8 statutory grounds.

4. Disciplinary Proceedings

It is common for employees to go off sick citing “stress” as the cause when they are faced with the prospect of disciplinary action. GP guidance indicates that employees in these situations are better served attending any hearing to get it out of the way, rather than having the allegations hanging over them for a prolonged period.

If an employee steadfastly refuses to attend the hearing, it should be postponed whilst medical advice is sought from the employee’s GP or an occupational health provider. The advisor should be signposted to the Health at Work Handbook when being asked whether the employee is fit to attend a disciplinary hearing.

5. Stressed employee out shopping?

Employers should bear in mind that there is no legal requirement that a stressed employee must stay at home and not go out. In fact, an employee getting out and about may help alleviate their stress.

Employers should avoid making snap judgements about employees based on reports that they have been seen out and about or Facebook posts which show the employee ‘living it up’.

6. Staff Surveys

Conducting staff surveys allows employers to identify any underlying problems within your workforce. Surveys can be conducted anonymously so that employees are more inclined to express their honest opinions.

7. Stress Management Training

Providing stress management training to your employees will help them not only deal with stress more effectively and build personal resilience, but also to understand the causes and nature of stress and how it can affect them.

Offering stress management training to your managers may allow them to identify early warning signs amongst employees. Early intervention can often prevent small issues snowballing into  big problems that cause damage to the business.

8. Stress at Work Policy

Having a written policy in place will make it clear to employees that the business takes the issue of stress seriously. The policy should set out how employees can deal with the effects of stress and who they can speak to within the business if they have any concerns.

If you would like specific advice in relation to stress or absence management in the workplace or you have any other employment or HR related issues please contact Joanne Holborn, Tom Scaife or Caroline Rayner on 01228 552600 or 01524 548494.

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