More than half of HR and H&S staff believe too much is expected of businesses in protecting workers from stress, according to the findings of a survey undertaken by law firm Pinsent Masons LLP.
During a series of seminars on Stress and Psychiatric Injury at Work, 54 percent of senior HR and H&S staff polled felt there was too much of a burden on businesses to combat workplace stress. In addition, 79 percent of attendees said they could identify specific costs to their businesses relating from stress. This boiled down to three main issues: absenteeism, poor performance, and lost management and HR/H&S time engaged in handling issues arising from stressed employees.
However, during the course of the seminars, it became clear that workplace stress often falls between two stools - it's not always obvious whether HR or Health and Safety will deal with it, and how.
Employment partner at Pinsent Masons, Selwyn Blyth said, 'It's clear that businesses feel under pressure to deal with stress in the workplace, and that it affects the bottom line, but how to tackle it is not so clear. This could partly be down to the nature of stress and how it is diagnosed, as it can be difficult to define where the line is drawn. Discussion during our seminars raised the point that HR and H&S rarely work closely together to tackle stress - this could explain the apparent difficulty that some organisations have in dealing with the issue.
'As you'd expect, Health and Safety teams tend to manage monitoring and risk assessment and are adept at these organisational controls. However, the solution to the risks identified often rests with HR teams - things such as effective dispute resolution, good appraisal systems, clear job descriptions, and effective change management for example. The introduction of the new 'fit note' next year should enable organisations to address stress related absence in a more effective way, but a closer relationship between HR and H&S is equally important and is something organisations can implement straight away.
'Caution should be taken to avoid just 'bolting on' stress management to existing procedures however. Delegates agreed that it is best integrated into existing management development schemes, and as such can form part of a values or wellbeing programme.'