Employers are urged to put workplace stress high on the agenda

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Employers are being urged to mark today’s National Stress Awareness Day by making sure they are tackling workplace stress among staff.

The advice comes from leading law firm Blake Morgan, which specialises in employment matters and is spearheading its own mental health first aid scheme for its employees.

It comes amid statistics which indicate workplace stress is on the rise.

According to the recently published CIPD Absence Management Survey 2016, the average level of employee absence has fallen slightly compared to the previous year from 6.9 days per employee per year to 6.3 days.   

However, nearly a third of respondents reported an increase in stress-related absence in the past year and this increased to half of public sector organisations.  Stress is the most common cause of long-term absence and the second most common cause of short-term absence.  Workload, non-work factors and management style are reported as the top three causes of stress at work.  

The theme of today’s (November 2) National Stress Awareness Day is ‘Workforce Wellness – Your Prime Investment’.

The annual event is held on the first Wednesday of November and is organised by the International Stress Management Association.

Tim Forer, a partner in the employment team at Blake Morgan, said: “The Centre for Mental Health estimates that 91 million days are lost each year due to mental health problems at a cost to employers of £26 billion a year or, put another way, £1,035 for every employee in the UK.

“Healthy, productive and motivated staff are crucial to an organisation's success and no organisation will flourish if they have staff, particularly in key roles, absent from the business for, potentially, an extended period.

“It makes business sense to tackle workplace stress more proactively and many employers are adopting initiatives to improve employee well-being and work-life balance such as flexible working and access to employee assistance programmes.”

But Tim urged employers to go further.

He explained: “There is a need for employers to develop a more open workplace and to create a culture where people feel comfortable talking about their mental health.

“It is also important to ensure that employees know what support is available, such as employee assistance or counselling helplines."

Blake Morgan recently launched a dedicated Well-being, Health and Safety programme as part of its firm-wide training academy. 

The firm has also launched a Mental Health First Aid scheme which sees trained Mental Health Champions working to raise awareness of mental health issues, provide support and help to access further resources for individuals and their line managers. 

Tim added: “All staff have access to a wide range of resources via an online portal and can attend courses on topics such as personal resilience or can download resources on subjects such as managing stress, coping with change, mental health and mindfulness."