Here’s a breakdown of the responsibilities and obligations of all those involved in the workforce when it comes to stress-related illness

The total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2014 to 2015 was 440,000. That’s a prevalence rate of 1380 per 100,000 workers, or just over 1 in 100.

Did you know that under the Healthy and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, all employers have a legal responsibility to minimise the risk of stress-related illness to employees.

The main factors respondents cited as causing work-related stress, depression or anxiety were workload pressures, including tight deadlines, too much responsibility and lack of managerial support.

We’re all responsible for reducing stress in our organisations, right from the board level all the way down to the employee level. This means an organisation should be conducting risk assessments, analysing results, monitoring issues, putting policies in place and encouraging self-reporting. All these things can take time and money.

We’ve gathered information from the Health and Safety Executive to help you meet your obligations. Here are the four key levels within an organisation with information on what they need to be doing. So, let’s start at the top, shall we?

At board level

At this level, directors have a number of responsibilities. They will need to consider the following:

  • Listen to factors suggesting issues with stress-related illness in business. Common factors might be rates of absenteeism, declining performance and even conflicts between staff members. The question remains, how are you going to evidence this?
  • How the Health and Safety policy addresses stress in the workplace. It should also include a stress management strategy if appropriate
  • Effective risk assessments are carried out, monitored and recommendations implemented. Do you know what resource is required to carry this out?
  • If going through organisational change, is a plan for stress-related risks in place? Are you able to demonstrate this from a legal standpoint?

HR and Health and Safety managers

This role is all about assisting employers in proactively addressing stress-related issues. They will need to consider the following issues:

  • Keeping up-to-date with work-related stress best practice
  • Conducting and reviewing risk assessments. It’s important to understand what systems are currently in place for this, and whether they are fit for purpose
  • Review the risk assessment system to understand if it requires updating,. This could include wider management changes
  • Ensure that employees are provided with information about stress-related illness, as well as their obligations and responsibilities
  • Ensure feedback of concerns about risks to health from stress up to the board level
  • Examine relationship between stress and frequent or long-term absenteeism for individuals
  • Identify medical or other evidence required to determine whether the employee may have a disability within the meaning of the Disability Discrimination Act. Consider whether the employee is treated less favourably for a reason related to the disability and whether reasonable adjustments could be made
  • Report concerns to appropriate senior personnel while maintaining obligations of confidentiality

Stress at work

Line managers

Legal responsibility rests primarily with the line manager’s employer, however, line managers have an important role in helping employers address work-related stress and reducing the levels of health risk within the workforce.

Line managers will need to consider the following issues:

  • If individuals with frequent or long-term absenteeism may be impacted by work-related stress
  • How they can identify, locate and relieve potential stress sources
  • As above, whether there might be a concern around disability related to the Disability Discrimination Act
  • Ensure that reports are sent to the appropriate senior personnel, all the while maintaining obligations of confidentiality


Not only do employers and managers have responsibilities related to health and safety, so do employees. For employees this means taking reasonable care for their own health and safety, and for those who may be affected by their actions.

Employees need to consider the following issues:

  • Make sure to inform employers if job pressures might be putting them, or others, at the risk of stress-related health
  • Identify and put forward any ways to minimise and alleviate work-related stress
  • Inform employers if they’re suffering from a medical condition that might be long-term and could affect their ability to continue their tasks. This might also include memory or learning tasks

Do you meet the requirements required by legislation? Can you evidence those requirements?

We’ve developed an online solution that helps you roll out your policy and meet legal requirements in a cost-effective and simple manner. Coupled with a reporting and management system this solution ensures that you can quickly scope out pain-points across the organisation and implement the right fixes to reduce levels of stress.

Talk to us today to see how our online solution can help you help your staff. Email [email protected] or head here for more info.

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