Stress management in the workplace

Stress is an adverse reaction that people experience when faced with excessive pressure. If the factors creating the pressure are not dealt with, that pressure can lead to mental and/or physical ill health (eg depression, nervous breakdown, heart disease).

Although education staff routinely face many circumstances that might be considered stressful, it is important to understand that work-related stress doesn't have to be accepted as simply a hazard of the job.

Under the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974, your employer has a duty of care towards you, which means managing stress within the workplace.

Risk assessments for stress

Work-related stress should be considered a health and safety hazard like any other and therefore, to minimise the potential for stress, employers should carry out a risk assessment. This should include:

  • looking for pressures at work that could cause high and long-lasting levels of stress, eg workloads, dealing with disruptive pupils/parents

  • deciding who might be harmed

  • deciding whether enough is being done to reduce the harm, once it is identified as a potential risk to staff.

The HSE's Stress Management Standards may also be useful in conducting risk assessments for stress. Assessments should be reviewed to ensure they are effective. Employees and safety representatives should be involved at every stage of the assessment process.

Stress Management Standards

In November 2004 the Health and Safety Executive issued the Stress Management Standards. The Standards demonstrate good practice and encourage employers, employees and representatives to work together to tackle the key causes of stress.

These causes are listed as:

  • control - how much say staff have over their work

  • support - the encouragement and resources provided by management

  • demands - workload, work patterns and work environment

  • relationships - such as having to deal with conflict or unacceptable behaviour

  • change - how organisational change is managed

  • role - for example dealing with conflicting roles.

The standards give a yardstick against which organisations can measure how well they are dealing with these factors and provide guidance on stress risk assessments. For lots more information, guidance and a copy of the Stress Management Standards, see www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards.

Need further advice?

Your first point of contact is your ATL rep in your school or college. Your local ATL branch is also available to help with queries, or you can contact ATL's member advisors on tel: 020 7930 6441 or email us. Please have your membership number to hand when telephoning and include it with any correspondence - this will help us to answer your query more quickly.

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