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Workplace Stress

Workplace stress is an issue affecting employees across various industries. While not explicitly defined by law, workplace stress can arise from factors such as heavy workloads, lack of safety precautions, bullying, restructuring, and toxic work environments. As employers have a legal responsibility to identify and manage health and safety risks, including workplace stress, it is crucial for both employers and employees to address this concern promptly and proactively. In this article, we explore workplace stress, leave options available to employees, and strategies for effectively managing stress for a healthier and more productive work environment.

Understanding Workplace Stress:
Workplace stress can take a toll on an employees’ physical and mental well-being, leading to decreased job satisfaction and performance. Employers must monitor and identify potential stressors in the workplace, ranging from excessive workloads to signs of physical strain. However, it's essential to recognise that stress may not always be apparent, and open communication between employers and employees is key to addressing this issue effectively.

Leave Options for Workplace Stress:
When workplace stress becomes an illness, employees have the option to take sick leave, subject to the regular conditions applicable to sick leave. However, beyond sick leave, employees and employers may negotiate further leave specifically for stress. While this is not a legal entitlement, offering additional leave can contribute to the employee's overall health and productivity. The duration and compensation of such leave will need to be discussed and agreed upon between the employer and employee.

The Role of Proper Diagnosis:
In cases of workplace stress, an employer may request an employee to consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis and confirmation of the stress-related illness. However, the employee is not obligated to comply with this request. Nevertheless, employees have a duty to report any workplace threats to their health and safety, which includes stress-related issues. Open communication regarding stress can assist employers in identifying the causes and working toward potential solutions.

Minimising Workplace Stress:
Employers should strive to minimise workplace stress by providing support and resources to employees. Implementing an employee assistance program, offering additional work-related support, and providing leave for stress can all be valuable measures. Employers can collaborate with employees and their medical professionals to understand the causes of stress and explore appropriate solutions. When workplace stress is inevitable, employers should focus on reducing the sources of stress and considering alternative, less stressful roles for affected employees.

Tips for Managing Workplace Stress:
Employees can also take proactive steps to manage workplace stress effectively. Some strategies include taking regular breaks, practising controlled responses to stress-inducing situations, incorporating deep breathing exercises, and minimising interruptions during work hours. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including proper diet and exercise, can also help in managing stress levels.

Stress Outside the Workplace:
Employers are not directly responsible for stress arising from personal issues such as relationship problems or financial concerns. However, being understanding and supportive of employees dealing with stress outside of work is essential. Offering a supportive work environment can foster employee well-being and overall job satisfaction.

Resources for employees:
Your workplace have resources in place that you can access. If however you would rather discuss this matter without involving your employer you can contact the organisations below and speak to someone 24 hours a day.

Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time
Lifeline - 0800 543 354
Samaritans - 0800 726 666

Resources for employers:
the Mental Health Foundation (Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora) has a set of tools available called Open Minds that you can access free of charge

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