Stress awareness month – How employers can help

Written 16th April 2024 by Gareth Martin

April is stress awareness month so given how far-reaching the issue is, I thought it worth sharing just a few observations on the subject which is (unfortunately) likely to remain prevalent, possibly even more so, in the health and safety sector moving forward.

How does stress affect the workplace?

Stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 49% of the new and long-standing cases of work-related ill health recorded in 2022/2023. A report by Deloitte estimated that the total annual cost of poor mental health to UK employers had increased by 25% since 2019, totalling up to £56 billion between 2020-2021.The financial cost and arguably more importantly the human cost for those effected by work related stress, is not sustainable. As such, all businesses, regardless of their nature, size or turnover, must not neglect their legal obligations to prevent work related illnesses including poor mental health.

How does stress affect employees in the workplace?

Stress affects people in different ways but in general terms presents (in the workforce) when people feel unable to cope with the pressures of work. They may feel that they don’t have the knowledge or skills to deliver a project or may be subject to tight deadlines which causes or adds to their stress.

Mental health relates to how people think, feel and behave, with anxiety and depression the most common mental health problems. Work can cause such issues but can also aggravate pre-existing conditions or the symptoms of them.

How can employers help their stress suffering with stress?

It is widely acknowledged that there is something of a stigma attached to mental health problems. Given the potentially far reaching consequences, however, it is important to talk about it and this is an important starting point towards a healthy and happy workplace with fewer absences, increased morale and greater productivity.

Employers should, therefore, speak to their employees both individually and collectively. They should encourage openness and honesty. Most importantly they should listen to employees as only then will they be able to understand, assess and deal with the particular risks within the business.

Although issues will differ between businesses and indeed between individuals, in general you should speak about the demands of the job and establish how your staff feel about what is expected of them and how the business supports them in terms of workloads, training and support.

Seeking employee’s views

Importantly, where concerns are raised you should ask for the employees’ views as to how best to resolve them. This approach will not only help address any immediate issues but will also ensure that employees feel listened to and in turn feel encouraged to speak up in the future.

Stress, anxiety and mental health issues will vary from person to person and may well change over time, so it is also important that employers reflect on and review any measures they have put in place to protect employees from stress at work.

How employers can help

The conversations around mental health and wellbeing should not be one-off “tick box” exercises. They should be regular and meaningful and most importantly they should put people at ease when talking about it so that in the event someone is worried about their stress levels or mental wellbeing, concerns can be addressed effectively and with compassion.

Like all aspects of health and safety, there is no “one size fits all”, however, some common themes to bear in mind irrespective of the sector may include, how people work and what working practices exist.

It is also important to review records around why former employees left and talk to staff, as this will also help identify less obvious risks and even how to deal with them.

When it comes to assessing the level of risk, in addition to considering who might be harmed and how, employers will also want to consider what you are already doing to control the risk and what further action needs to be taken, including by who and by when.

In short businesses should:

  • Consider – identify the risks and potential harm
  • Act- take steps to prevent or reduce those risks
  • Review-  the effectiveness of those steps and adjust as necessary (ensuring employees are aware of any changes)

Olliers Solicitors – Specialist Health & Safety Lawyers

Olliers Solicitors have a team of specialist regulatory lawyers with significant experience in advising individuals and organisations in relation to health and safety matters, including investigations and prosecutions.

If you require advice in relation to a Health & Safety investigation please contact our new enquiry team either by email to, or by telephone on 020 3883 6790 (London) or 0161 834 1515 (Manchester) or by completing the form below.

Gareth Martin

Gareth Martin



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