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Stress at Work - Employment Solicitor Explains What You Can Do About It

By Practice Group Leader, Employment

It’s Friday afternoon. Your inbox, linkedin and twitter will be filling your mind with the next deadline, meeting, task or event. It's also likely to be buzzing with mental health related discussions and statistics. That’s because it’s World Mental Health Day. 

You may have read about how stress affects over 90% of employees in the UK. That means that behind a sea of city computer screens more workers than we thought are struggling to keep their head above water. A sobering thought for a Friday afternoon.

Work-related stress is defined by the Health and Safety Executive as "the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them”.

A recent survey by Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK found that causes of work-related stress include being given too much work (39%), unrealistic deadlines (32%), working more hours than contracted (20%), undue scrutiny or micromanagement (17%) and harassment by bosses or colleagues (16%). More than 65% admit stress has caused them to underperform at work.

Employers have a legal obligation to ensure the risk of stress is minimised, in the same way they need to avoid physical hazards.

In the City of London, the words ‘mental health’ are often taboo and you may worry that stress will be viewed by your employer as a sign of weakness.

What can you do about Stress at Work?

Check what support your employer already has in place. Some employers offer employee assistance programmes and confidential helplines you can take advantage of. You should check your staff handbook or intranet to see what is available.

Your employer is less able to support you if they don’t know there’s a problem and sometimes the best solution is to tell your employer that you are stressed and ask for help. In response, your employer should work with you to find a way to reduce stress. This could include reducing workload, revising deadlines or help to achieve the often unattainable work-life balance.

In some situations it might be appropriate to refer you to Occupational Health who can advise your employer on how best to support you.

If your employer fails to offer support or victimises you for raising concerns, you may need to consider taking more formal action, such as raising a formal grievance or, as a last resort, pursuing an employment tribunal claim.

Paula Chan is an Employment Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.

For expert legal advice on employment tribunals or any Employment Law issue, call freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online and we will call you.

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