Introduction to this document

Stress and mental wellbeing policy

Use our statement to set out your policy on stress at work and on providing a working environment which supports employees’ mental health and wellbeing. It also provides for you to offer a professional stress counselling service. This will help in your defence of any personal injury claim should an employee subsequently suffer from psychiatric injury as a result of stress at work.

Personal injury claim

There are many reasons why you should take active steps to prevent your employees from suffering work-related stress. Apart from the fact that stressed employees will not perform their job well, if at all, there are potential legal consequences if you fail to protect them from extreme or prolonged stress at work. In particular, an employee could bring a personal injury claim against you and allege that you have failed to ensure their health and safety and to protect them from reasonably foreseeable risks. The employee must suffer a recognised mental illness as a result of your breach of the duty of care. They will need to show that your breach caused their psychiatric injury and that it was not caused by some other reason, e.g. problems in their personal life. They will also need to demonstrate that the risk of their suffering the personal injury was reasonably foreseeable. In practice, many personal injury claims fail on this ground. However, if the employee has already suffered from a previous mental illness in the past of which you are aware or you are made aware that the employee is susceptible to suffering from one on this occasion, then it will be easier for the employee to show reasonable foreseeability. Offering a confidential counselling service can assist in your defence but it will not of itself mean that you can avoid liability for personal injury.


Common causes of stress

Amongst the most common causes of work-related stress are excessive workloads, over-long working hours, lack of support or insufficient training, bullying and harassment, problem relationships at work, feelings of isolation and fear of change. Stress is an adverse reaction that people have to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed on them. The Health & Safety Executive has issued stress management standards designed to help you meet your duty of care and your duty to assess the risk relating to work-related stress. Our Stress and Mental Wellbeing Policy statement is aimed at helping employees who believe they are suffering from stress. It demonstrates that you treat the issue as a serious one.

Mental health

As well as covering work-related stress, our policy also sets out your understanding of mental health and states your commitment to providing a working environment which supports mental wellbeing, giving staff guidance on what to do if they’re suffering from stress or mental ill health and providing what support you’ll make available to them.