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Work-related stress guidance published as sickness rates increase

A new tool from the Health and Safety Executive will help employers include stress in risk assessments

Stress, depression and anxiety made up half of all work-related ill health in the past year, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The HSE has created an interactive guidance tool to help employers meet their legal duties and begin to understand how to include stress in their workplace risk assessments.

Nearly 2 million workers in Great Britain reported suffering from work-related ill health in the last 12 months, with an estimated 875,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety. 

HSE’s chief executive Sarah Albon said it is crucial that employers tackle work-related stress.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Preventing or tackling work-related stress can provide significant benefits to employees, improving their experience of work and their overall health, and also to employers including increased productivity, decreased absenteeism and reduced staff turnover.”

Read more: Should stress be a reportable injury?

The HSE’s new guidance tool, which is free to use, takes employers through everyday scenarios, showing how to recognise the signs of stress in individuals and teams like regular lateness to work, being withdrawn and higher staff turnover.

Liz Goodwill, head of work-related stress policy at HSE, said many businesses are aware they should include stress in risk assessments but lack knowledge of how to do so.

She said: “More than half of small and medium sized (SME) businesses recently visited by HSE knew they had a legal duty to assess the risk of work-related stress, but the number who actually did this was significantly lower. 

“Lack of time, money and know-how are common reasons why businesses can struggle to prevent and proactively tackle the issue. Now, they have a resource that provides free learning which is simple and engaging and does not take a huge amount of time to complete.”

Since 2019, the total annual cost of poor mental health has increased by 25%, costing UK employers up to £56 billion a year, according to a study from Deloitte. The research also found employers see a return of £5.30 on average for every £1 invested in staff wellbeing.

Goodwill added: “By providing this free learning, our aim is to help lower the investment cost and assist employers to reap the potential benefits including increased productivity, lower absenteeism and reduced staff turnover.”

Read more: Work-related stress leading to employee physical pain