During a worker’s career, they may experience stress for a variety of reasons. Taking time off from work for stress offers an opportunity for staff to manage their mental and physical health while getting themselves ready to return and complete the job they are being paid for.
But what exactly is stress leave and what does the law say about it in the UK? In this article, we will answer these questions and many more.
What is work-related stress?
Job stress is often described as the emotional and psychological response that occurs when an employee feels under pressure to complete their job.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, stress is ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them in the workplace.’
The main factors that can cause work-related stress, depression and anxiety are:
- Tight or unrealistic deadlines
- Excessive responsibility in the employee’s role
- A lack of managerial support.
It’s important to note that stress affects people differently and what stresses one person may not affect another.
What types of stress might an employee experience?
Everyone will suffer from stress from time to time, and everyone will experience it in different ways. Here are a few ways that it can manifest in the workplace:
a. Physical Stress
One of the most common types of stress is physical stress, which refers to the exhaustion of the body. In connection with work, physical stress can often occur when an employee is overly physically worked or suffers from excessive sleep disturbance, both of which can lead to the inability to work and a weakened immune system.
b. Emotional Stress
Emotional stress often occurs as a result of significant events in a person’s life. Although most of these events happen in their personal life (medical emergencies, relationship problems, etc.), the effects are often seen in the workplace. This type of stress may make the employee feel nervous, irritated, anxious, and they may suffer from depression.
What are the main causes of work-related stress?
There are many different causes of stress in the workplace. Here are a few to consider along with a few tips on how to avoid them if you run a business:
a. Time stress
Time stress is the best-known form of stress in the modern working environment. Often, projects and tasks have deadlines and staff may become worried about a lack of time to finish their tasks. This can then lead to feelings of pressure and unhappiness.
Tips on how to prevent time stress
Time stress is inevitable if staff are pushed to their limits. If you are a manager or business owner who relies on tight deadlines, look to provide additional resources in terms of staff and other tools to get the job done. Think about employing a good quality scheduling or project management software (like the ones we provide at Papershift) to plan for deadlines and rota staff accordingly.
b. Anticipatory stress
Anticipatory stress occurs when staff worry about events that have not yet happened but are looming on the horizon. This can cause uncertainty about future events and the employee’s responsibility or both.
Common workplace events like busy periods and upcoming project deadlines can cause anticipatory stress, especially if the way they are being managed is unclear.
Tips on how to prevent anticipatory stress
Make sure that staff understand exactly what is happening within a business over coming months and provide them with a clear schedule of what they are expected to do. Again, a good e-roster software package can help make sure that schedules are tight, and staff know what is happening at any given time.
c. Situational stress
People experience situational stress during tense situations over which they have no control. This can happen, for instance, in emergencies, when making major mistakes, or during conflict situations. This stress results in a feeling of powerlessness and a lack of motivation.
Tips on how to prevent situational stress
Situational stress is a difficult one to deal with as it can often happen at the drop of a hat when things go wrong. If you run a business, make sure you have clear policies for employees to follow in all situations and offer opportunities for support if difficulties arise.
What is stress leave?
Stress leave is any period of time that an employee takes off work to deal with or recover from stress-related illnesses, injuries, and other predicaments.
Some of the signs that show that an employee is stressed include:
- Inability to perform work duties
- A sudden and unexpected reduction in the quality of work
- The employee becomes depressed or anxious
What does the law say about stress leave in the UK?
Stress leave in the UK is viewed in the same way as sick leave. When signed off work with stress by a GP or doctor, employees keep the same entitlement to sick pay as they would with any other illness.
If an employee can prove their stress resulted from harassment or discrimination in the workplace, they might be able to pursue a tribunal claim against their employer. For them to pursue a claim, they’ll need to receive a diagnosis from a medical professional.
In the case of long periods of absence, an employer may request a formal meeting to discuss the employee’s illness. If the employee refuses to meet, or misses appointments, the business can begin capability dismissal proceedings.
Stress leave is a crucial recovery period designed to help employees maintain their physical and mental health when they are experiencing difficulties. But from a business perspective, it can be difficult to spot and even harder to manage.
- Accurate pay out of incentives & allowances
- Job contract & personal records online
- Payroll, absence & vacation records online
- Fair absence requests & approval policy
- Timely perks & benefits distribution & monitoring
- Transparent grievance & redressal policy
- Access staff records with secure rights online