One of the biggest threats our members face throughout the rounds of restructures, pay restraint and shrinking teams is the increase in workload.
UNISON recognises that the loss of years of experience when reducing staff numbers and the increasing workloads that are left behind to fewer staff can create anxiety and stress. Managers should be conducting Stress Risk assessments on teams where there has been a change in staff numbers to identify pressures from workloads. If you do not believe this has been done, you should in the first instance approach your line manager and ask. The information from this should be communicated to all team members affected.
If this has not been done then you should contact the branch. This is a requirement by the employer and is a responsibility that must be enforced to ensure the duty of care towards it’s employees.
Work-related stress is one of the biggest health hazards in the workplace. Stress is difficult to identify, but it can be caused by excessive workloads or pressure placed on employees.
- Work-related stress is a reaction to pressure or harassment at work or other working conditions.
- Employers are responsible for the general safety and wellbeing of their employees while they are at work.
- The law require employers to carry out risk assessments to identify hazards, including stress.
Where can I get help with dealing with stress?
If you are suffering from stress, or feel unwell, speak to your GP immediately. Speak to your line manager or to your UNISON rep / branch office if you feel your workload is unreasonably high, if you feel you are under pressure, or if you are being harassed or otherwise discriminated against in any way.
What are the laws on stress in the workplace?
The law says that employers are responsible for the safety of their employees while they are at work, and this includes stress. Certain levels of stress are normal and may even be helpful. However excessive levels of stress can be destructive and lead to psychiatric injury for which the employer may be liable for a claim in a county court for negligence depending upon the circumstances.
Once an employer knows that a worker is or may be at risk of injury, they must investigate the problem and find out what they can do to resolve it.
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, your employer must assess the nature and scale of health risks at work (including stress).
The Working Time Regulations place limits on the length of the working week and force all employers to give employees paid holiday.
In certain circumstances a claim for stress from harassment may form part of a claim to the employment tribunal in respect of age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation discrimination under the Equality Act. Where a worker has become disabled due to the stress that they have suffered, the Equality Act requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to their work or workplace.
Most public sector organisations are covered by the Public Sector Equality Duty contained in the Equality Act 2010 (in Northern Ireland section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act) which aims to make sure employers pay ”due regard“ to the promotion of equality. This includes disabled people – some of whom may be more prone to stress – at work.
If you are affected by any of the symptoms of stress such as long working hours or unreasonable workloads, contact your UNISON branch immediately.