One in six UK employers ‘offer no formal support’ to stressed workers

One in six UK employers offer no formal support to stressed workers

New research has found that only 17 per cent of UK employers have any form of stress management advice and support in place.

The Department of Work and Pensions survey, entitled Health and Well-Being at Work, polled 2,250 small, medium and large-sized employers working in a wide variety of industries in both the private and public sector. The findings allow insight into employers’ attitudes to their workers’ stress levels.

No win no fee solicitors can help people make a personal injury claim if they have suffered unnecessary stress at work because of an employer’s negligence. Claims Direct can also put individuals in touch with the relevant support groups but it is alarming to think that 17 per cent of employers offer little formal support. 

Employees’ job satisfaction

Perhaps the reason for the lack of a stress safety net can be found in the fact that 89 per cent of employers polled agreed to some extent with the statement “this organisation takes steps to increase employees’ job satisfaction”. 

Over half (52 per cent) agreed strongly with the statement and just two per cent disagreed with the statement.

Employers in the public administration sector (98 per cent) seemed to be among the most confident about their efforts to increase workers job satisfaction.

Deeply ironic’

Commenting on this finding, a spokesman for the PCS Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents many workers in the public administration sector, strongly suggested that employers’ perception of measures to improve job satisfaction do not reflect the reality faced by many stressed workers. 

The spokesman told me: “It is deeply ironic that the Department of Work and Pensions is surveying employers about stress when in the DWP and across the wider civil service, workers are facing the prospect of everything they’ve worked for – their job, pay and pensions - being taken away.”

He added: “Far from increasing job satisfaction this is increasing stress as can be seen in the results of DWP staff surveys.”

Measures to combat stress

When employers were asked what measures they had taken over the last year to help keep employees with health problems in work or help them resume their duties, 67 per cent said they provided no measures.

The measures which were provided could act as inspiration for employers looking to help employees who are off work with stress return to employment. 

These include: 

  • Allowing reduced or different hours (29 per cent)
  • Reducing employee workload
  • Allowing extra breaks (18 per cent)
  • Appointing a job coach or personal assistant (3 per cent)

Stress-reduction measures 

Employers who provided stress management measures were asked which stress management measures they had implemented over the past year.

Informal discussions were the most popular measure to be implemented: (86 per cent of employers implemented these).

The rather vague ‘appraisals where the subject of stress may be mentioned’ was ‘runner-up’ with 74 per cent. The statement ‘it comes up at induction’ was mentioned by two per cent of employers.

On a more pro-active note, ‘group discussion about work-stress’ was tried by 51 per cent.

Other measures included introducing:

  • A stress counselling or mentoring programme (33 per cent) 
  • A staff welfare programme (21 per cent)
  • A stress awareness day at work (17 per cent)
  • Social events and outings (4 per cent)
  • Team building exercises (2 per cent)

The poll also found that surveys were used fairly widely (11 per cent) to evaluate stress levels. 

Workers will be keen that employers act to address stress before a survey highlights its existence.