It has recently been reported by the NHS that nearly a third of fit notes (new name for sick notes) are for psychiatric problems making them the most common reason for staff to take time off work.

There was a 14% rise in fit notes concerning stress and anxiety between 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Managing absence in the workplace is a challenge for many employers.  It means tackling possible causes of absence and employee relations and supporting an employee’s return to work.

Stress at work can be a significant issue to tackle.  Stress is an adverse reaction to pressure or demands.  Employers have a legal duty to assess the risk of work-related stress and control those risks.

The main causes of stress and what you can do about them are summarised in Acas’ Stress at Work policy:

  • Demands – Employees often become overloaded if they cannot cope with the volume of work or the type of work they are asked to do. You should pay close attention to the way the job is designed, training needs and whether it is possible for employees to work more flexible hours

  • Control – Employees can feel undervalued and perform poorly if they have no say over how and when they do their work. Think about actively involving staff in decision making.  Their input could be requested during department meetings and one to one meetings with their line manager.

  • Support – Levels of sickness absence often increase if the employee feels they cannot speak to managers about their concerns. Managers should be properly trained, approachable and be there to listen to any concerns and aim to address any issues at an early stage to prevent issues escalating.

  • Relationships – A failure to build relationships based on trust and positive behaviour can lead to problems relating to discipline, grievances and bullying. Ensure your business has appropriate policies in place to deal with grievances, disciplinary matters, sickness absence and for tackling any bullying and harassment.

  • Role – Staff will feel anxious about their role if they do not know what is expected of them. Implement an induction process, prepare accurate job descriptions and maintain a close link between individual targets and organisational goals. Have clear reporting lines.

  • Change – This needs to be managed effectively or it can lead to insecurity and have significant effects on workplace morale and performance. Ensure that you plan ahead and properly and meaningfully consult with staff regarding any changes so that they have an input and their views are properly considered.  Work together to solve problems.

The benefits of tackling stress are significant.  It means that staff are a lot happier at work, perform better and there is a low turnover of staff meaning the business can run effectively without disruption.  Attendance levels go up and sickness absence goes down.

If you require any employment advice, Farleys’ experienced employment law solicitors can help. Call us on 0845 287 0939 or email us today.