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April’s Employment Law Digest – How to identify and combat stress in the workplace

Since 1992 National Stress Awareness month has been recognised in April of each year. The aim is to raise awareness of the negative impact of stress and encourage an open conversation about the impact of stress and the effect it can have.

What is stress?

The NHS define ‘stress’ as being the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. The HSE define ‘workplace stress’ as the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work. Experiencing a lot of stress over a long period of time can also lead to a feeling of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, often called burnout. So it can quite easily, and often does, lead to poor mental health.

Why is this important?

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1975, every employer has a duty to take reasonable care of the health and safety of its employees, and a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees. This duty of care extends to the employee’s mental as well as physical health.

In 2021/22, the HSE reported that 914,000 workers were affected by work-related stress, depression and anxiety and an estimated 17 million working days were lost as a result of people being absent due to stress. In the same period, work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health. These figures show that stress in the workplace is a widespread problem, and that it is likely that every worker will experience it at some point.

From a practical perspective, the consequences of work-related stress can include high levels of absenteeism, lack of engagement, low performance and lost productivity to name just a few. From a legal perspective breaching relevant health and safety duties may result in claims against the employer.

...and five top tips for you as an individual to manage your own stress

Understand what is causing your stress

Rarely is it one thing, and when you know where your stress is coming from, it is easier to manage or make changes.


Talk about how you feel and what support you need. Ask for help when you need it, try to be specific when asking for help and don’t be afraid to ask for professional support.

Establish healthy boundaries

Be clear on your limits and say no when you need to. Communicate your boundaries clearly and reinforce them when you need to

Put energy into the fundamentals of health

Diet/nutrition, exercise and sleep. Be intentional in your self-care practice – make it part of daily life.

Develop your own stress management resources

Books, podcasts, mindfulness practices, journaling, friends who can provide support/listening. Your personal tool kit of things to help you manage the stress in your life.