Stress at work

1 Introduction

1.1 We believe managing health, safety and wellbeing effectively is an essential part of the way we work. It helps to deliver excellent customer services, value for money for our customers and creates a strongly supportive working environment for staff. We recognise that workplace stress is a health and safety issue and acknowledge the importance of identifying and reducing workplace stressors.

1.2 Everyone feels stress from time to time and what one person considers stressful someone else considers as an incentive or normal.

1.3 It has been shown that work-related stress can have an adverse effect on organisations in terms of sickness absence, performance and productivity, and staff recruitment and retention. Prolonged periods of stress (whether work related or not) can also effect the
physical and psychological health of individuals. To a lesser extent there is an effect on work colleagues and those to whom we provide services.

1.4 Clearly it is in everyone’s interest to reduce stress in the workplace. To this end, The Housing Ombudsman, its managers and each and every individual have a part to play. As part of this, staff have a responsibility to ensure their own physical and emotional health and wellbeing to enable them to fulfill their contractual requirements.

2 Statement of Intent

2.1 The Housing Ombudsman aims to create a working environment which adheres to recognised ‘best practise’ standards with respect to promoting a healthy organisational
culture, managing and reducing workplace stressors, and ensuring that the requirements of the Equality Act are observed in relation to stress.

2.2 The following policy is intended to act as a framework to ensure that the management of stress in the workplace, and the shared responsibilities to achieve this aim, operate effectively for the benefit of all.

The Housing Ombudsman

2.2.1 Recognises that the control of stress at work, and taking steps to promote mental wellbeing, can make significant contributions to the efficiency of the organisation.

2.2.2 Is committed to encouraging a healthy organisational culture to ensure the efficient running of the Housing Ombudsman.

2.2.3 Is committed to safeguarding employees’ health, so far as is reasonably practicable, and to reduce stress risks at work in partnership with them.

2.2.4 Views all stress issues, whether work-related or arising from the employee’s social or domestic circumstances, as being potentially damaging to an individual and the organisation.

2.2.5 Considers that the management of the health of staff and the reduction of stress is
equally as important as the control of financial and capital resources.

3 What Is Stress?

3.1 The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them”. A person experiences stress when they perceive that the demands of their work are greater than their ability to cope. Stress is not an illness – it is a state. However, if stress becomes too excessive and prolonged, mental and physical illness may develop.

3.2 Although some groups of people report more stress-related problems than others, feeling stressed at work is not confined to particular occupational groups or levels within organisations. Stress can occur at all levels of the organisation.

3.3 The HSE guidance states that the primary sources of stress at work are covered by six key areas, which if not properly managed are associated with poor health and wellbeing, lower productivity, and increased sickness absence. These areas are summarised as:

3.3.1 Demands – this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment.

3.3.2 Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work.

3.3.3 Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues.

3.3.4 Relationships – Employee is treated with respect in a fair and consistent way. This includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour.

3.3.5 Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles.

3.3.6 Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.

These key areas, and the signs and symptoms of stress are explored in more detail in the guidance notes.

4 Responsibilities

4.1 Corporate Responsibilities:

4.1.1 To provide expert advice and guidance around good management practice and stress related issues.

4.1.2 To provide an employee referral service via an Occupational Health Service and/or EAP where stress or other health issues have been identified.

4.1.3 To provide and maintain a confidential employee counselling service for staff affected by stress caused by either work, or external factors etc.

4.1.4 To operate a Performance Review system and to provide clear guidelines on work objectives and opportunities for staff in terms of future personal and career development.

4.1.5 To provide a fair and thorough grievance process through which employee concerns will be investigated and addressed appropriately.

4.1.6 To provide training for all supervisors and managers in how to identify, risk assess and manage stress issues amongst staff.

4.1.7 To provide training for all staff relating to awareness of stress hazards, recognising stress at an early stage and how stress can be dealt with effectively.

4.1.8 To monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of this policy.

4.2 Managers Responsibilities

The Guidance Notes which accompany this policy provide additional information on managing individuals experiencing stress.

4.2.1 To routinely (or when there is an identified need) carry out and record risk assessments which identify workplace stressors, to eliminate or control the risks from stress to staff. This may be achieved annually as part of the Performance Review process.

4.2.2 Implement and communicate to staff effective control measures, precautions, employment adjustments and any other appropriate support and training arising from the stress risk assessments to reduce the health risks associated with stress.

4.2.3 Ensure good communication between management and staff, particularly where there are organisational and procedural changes, or other emerging issues which may lead to stress.

4.2.4 To ensure significant stress hazards are included in Job Descriptions and Employee  Specifications and that stress reduction is included in job design.

4.2.5 Attend training as provided, relating to the identification, risk assessment and management of stress hazards. This may be part of a colleague event or Management Development Programme.

4.2.6 To ensure that all staff who are potentially at risk attend the in house training programme relating to awareness, recognition and control of stress hazards.

4.2.7 To encourage staff via supervision, ‘one to one’ discussions or Performance Review meetings to raise problems arising from work or home, which may be causing or likely to cause stress and to jointly initiate appropriate action.

4.2.8 To ensure the work environment, job design and facilities provided to staff are, as far as is reasonably practicable, suitable and adequate for the work concerned.

4.2.9 To ensure that in the event of a member of staff experiencing stress, or being absent from work as a result of stress, appropriate action is taken in accordance with this policy and associated guidance.

4.2.10 Further support can be obtained from HR

4.3 Employee Responsibilities:

4.3.1 To recognise that the management of stress in the workplace is a joint responsibility between the individual and The Housing Ombudsman.

4.3.2 Raise issues of concern with your line manager.

4.3.3 To recognise their shared responsibility to identify stress in themselves, and others, at an early stage; and to seek help at the earliest opportunity.

4.3.4 To avoid harmful ways of coping with stress.

4.3.5 To respect the needs of others and to take responsibility for actions which may have an adverse effect on the health and stress of others.

4.3.6 To ensure that annual leave and flexible working are used to good effect in reducing personal stress.

4.3.7 To make use of the EAP.

5 Confidentiality

5.1 Members of the Occupational Health service and the EAP operate within recognised codes of confidentiality and neutrality. The identity of any individuals and any discussions are kept in confidence.

5.2 Where the Occupational Health service or the Employee Counselling Service identify that there has been a deviation from procedure regarding the management of work-related stress (e.g. a stress risk assessment has not been completed where there is an identified need); it will only be possible to escalate this, with the consent of the individual(s) concerned.

5.3 All matters should remain confidential between the employee, line manager and HR.

6 Monitoring and Review

6.1 The policy will be reviewed annually, ensuring that adequate consultation takes place on the content, implementation, monitoring and review schedule.

6.2 As part of routine compliance checking and review, HR will monitor the completion of specific stress risk assessments where stress has been identified as a significant risk.