National Stress Awareness Day: Comment From Charles Russell LLP On Work Related Stress


In honour of National Stress Awareness Day today, Susan Thomas, Senior Associate in Charles Russell LLP’s Employment Team, commented: “We see increasing numbers of employers citing absence due to stress as one of the most significant concerns they are dealing with.  Stress cases often develop in clusters in parts of the business and when this happens it is always worth looking at whether there is a common cause or culture that is contributing to the problem.  

“An effective absence management programme is crucial to reducing the impact of stress on the business and can have a very beneficial impact on staff affected.  Maintaining regular, supportive contact with employees who are absent and offering suitable rehabilitation programmes prevents them from very quickly becoming disengaged and anxious about a return to work, which in turn exacerbates the problem and creates a vicious circle. 

“A dual-approach of educating line managers to spot the signs of stress and take pro-active steps to prevent problems developing, and educating and empowering HR to deal with stress issues confidently and supportively, has a significant impact.  Small steps like ensuring that employees take regular holidays can make a real difference and help managers spot potential problems.  Research also indicates that employees with inflexible work schedules suffer significantly more than those with some flexibility. Encouraging staff to confidentially raise concerns at an early stage and removing the stigma around stress and mental health conditions all help employers manage issues before they result in significant absence and disruption.

“The Employment Appeal Tribunal has recently upheld a decision that an employer breached its obligation to make reasonable adjustments when it failed to pay for an employee’s private psychiatric counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy.  The case doesn’t suggest a general obligation to pay for private medical treatment, but, in this case, the employee’s absence was found to be predominantly caused by work-related stress.  A Tribunal may therefore decide that funding private treatment which would enable the employee to overcome work-related difficulties and return to work amounts to a reasonable adjustment.”