Tinnitus Awareness: Protecting Workers’ Hearing


Tinnitus Awareness: Protecting Workers’ Hearing

The dangers of excessive noise
Excessive noise in the workplace can cause various Health & Safety problems and ill health in the workplace if it’s not properly managed. It can lead to conditions such as temporary hearing damage and permanent hearing damage/deafness. This can be caused by exposure to loud noises over some time or by sudden extreme noise levels.

One of the potential outcomes of hearing damage is Tinnitus. Indicators that someone is suffering from tinnitus can include hearing:
• ringing
• buzzing
• whooshing
• humming
• hissing
• throbbing
• music or singing

The sufferer may hear these sounds in one, or both ears, or even in their head. The sounds may be continuous or may come and go.

Tinnitus can be distressing to the sufferer and in some cases can lead to problems such as lack of sleep and mental health issues.

What other hazards are caused by high workplace noise?
Excessive noise can cause issues with communication among workers and can make warnings and alarms harder to hear. It can also reduce a person’s awareness of their surroundings. These additional factors can lead to safety risks which may place workers and others at risk of injury or death.

It’s important to note that young people’s hearing can be damaged just as easily as older workers, so controls need to be put in place for everyone, regardless of age.

How can we protect workers from excessive noise levels?
Under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, employers have a legal duty to assess the risks of noise in the workplace. They must take action to control the hazard, by prevention or noise reduction, so that the effects of noise within the workplace are properly managed.

The Regulations define ‘exposure action values’ – levels of noise exposure which, if exceeded, require employers to take specific action. There are ‘lower’ and ‘upper’ action values.

  • Lower exposure action value – daily or weekly personal noise exposure (LEP,d or LEP,w) of 80dB.
  • Upper exposure action value – daily or weekly personal noise exposure (LEP,d or LEP,w) of 85dB
  • Peak sound pressure – these very loud ‘impact noise’ levels can be more damaging than the daily / weekly noise exposures and present a risk of immediate and permanent hearing loss. The lower and upper action values for these are 135 and 137 dB (LCpeak) respectively. Damage caused by them will be in addition to any damage resulting from the daily or weekly noise level a person is exposed to.

Where your employees are likely to be exposed at or above the upper exposure action value, you must take action to reduce noise exposure with a planned programme of noise control.

How to control noise:
If excessive noise (exceeding 85Dba) is likely to be a problem in your business conducting a formal noise assessment will provide accurate levels of noise in your workplace along with an action plan with appropriate control measures. Likely control measures are:
• Providing regular health screening/health surveillance
• Providing information, instruction and training
• Providing hearing protection
• Providing engineering noise reduction measures
• Task rotation
• Removing damaged or defective equipment
• Routine maintenance of machinery would help reduce noise levels of equipment.
• During the procurement phase, manufacturer’s noise output levels should be considered.
• Layout designs could be implemented to create quiet workstations
• Mandatory hearing protection zones could be implemented with signage displayed etc.

Why is it important to ensure grievances are dealt with effectively within a business?


Why is it important to ensure grievances are dealt with effectively within a business?

Grievances are concerns, problems or complaints that employees raise with their employers about any aspect of their employment.   

Sometimes these frustrations are hidden, leading to a difficult working environment where resentments fester and build that no one knows about. An open culture is a lot more productive, where employees know they can raise any concerns and that meaningful steps will be taken to try to resolve them.  

Working for a diverse, inclusive organisation is more and more important for employees, and having a clear and well-thought-out grievance procedure helps with that. If your people feel like they work in an environment where people are valued and their voices and opinions are encouraged and heard, you’re more likely to build a positive working environment with an engaged workforce, who will be less likely to leave – and new candidates will be easier to recruit!

Include your grievance procedure should in the written particulars of employment you give to your employees, or set it out in a reasonably accessible document.  

Step one: Grievance raised 

If one of your employees raises concerns, it’s important that you deal with it as soon as possible.

Always maintain confidentiality during the process, and securely store all records/notes/witness statements in your employee’s personnel records. 

Every situation involving conflict will be different. Complaints can be raised by an individual but can sometimes be raised by a group, like a whole department.  

Concerns at work can come from loads of places, but the most common are:

Notification of a grievance/complaint 

If a manager becomes aware of a complaint or grievance, it’s important to establish: 

If the employee decides to only complain informally, they could still choose to submit a formal grievance later on.   

Sometimes, an employee does not want to discuss the concerns further, but just wants to flag them with management.  Whilst there would be no need to meet with the employee, internal steps may still have to be taken to rectify the situation – for example if they have flagged that a manager is behaving inappropriately, this will need to be investigated and dealt with appropriately.   

Whether a grievance is being dealt with formally or informally, it is essential that it is established at the outset of the process, what the individual who is raising the grievance sees as a successful outcome to the concerns that they have raised. This will assist the person who is hearing the grievance to deal with this effectively and consider what action may be taken.

Informal complaints process 

If an employee raises concerns and it seems appropriate, they can be asked if they want to deal with the matter informally rather than via the formal grievance procedure.   

It should always be the employee’s decision about which process is used.  Further, if they do raise what seem to be only informal concerns, it is good practice to double check that they do not wish to access the formal grievance procedure. 

If the employee is still dissatisfied following an informal process, they could of course still choose to submit a formal grievance. 

Informal process 

The advantage of the informal process is that issues may be resolved more quickly and potentially without as many repercussions as using the formal procedure, for example there may be less risk that working relationships will be damaged.  

The informal route is most commonly used: 

Beginning the informal process 

If the employee wishes to proceed informally, it should first be decided who will deal with their concerns.  This must be someone more senior to the employee and would usually be their line manager, unless they are involved in the complaints.   

As the employee could still submit a formal grievance, it is important to consider who would conduct any formal hearings, as they should not have been involved in the informal meeting/s – for further details see our guide to Formal grievance procedure

Meeting with the employee 

The manager should meet privately with the employee and ask them to present their concerns. These should be discussed in full, along with how they want the issues resolved.  

This meeting should be arranged promptly.  It would not be appropriate to delay dealing with the concerns until later at (for example) a scheduled/routine employee development review/appraisal.  

Preparing for the meeting 

Sufficient time should be set aside to meet with the employee.  There is no right for the employee to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative at an informal meeting but this may be appropriate in some circumstances and may assist in the meeting going as smoothly as possible.

In preparing for the meeting, the meeting chair should review what they know about the employee’s concerns together with any relevant evidence.  It may be helpful to consider in advance some questions to ask at the meeting.  However, these questions should not be taken as a script or a definitive list and it is important to ask any further relevant questions during the meeting, as these arise.   

Conducting the meeting 

It is still good practice to keep written records of all informal discussions and any decisions taken, in case a full history of events is needed later.  If it does not feel appropriate to have a note taker present, rough notes could be taken during the meeting and these written up afterwards.  

As the meeting is informal, it may be preferred to not make it too structured.  However, it is good practice to: 

The employee should then be given a full chance to set out their issues.  The chair should ensure that they understand all the concerns raised and ask any appropriate questions.  If the employee mentions any evidence, for example a problematic email, then a copy should be obtained.

If there is anything that the chair needs to look into after the meeting, then they should confirm this to the employee: 

The meeting should be concluded by asking the employee if they want to add anything and then confirming the next step.   


The chair must decide whether they agree with the employee’s concerns and if they do, what steps can be taken to remedy these concerns.  It is important to keep in mind what the employee wants and even if the chair is not upholding the complaints, they should still consider suggestions to improve the working relationships. 

If there is nothing else to investigate, the chair could make a decision at the meeting.  However, it would usually be expected that they would need to take some time to think through the situation or carry out some additional investigation.   

It is good practice to discuss the decision in another informal meeting and this could be following up with a letter/email confirming what was discussed.  

If the chair does believe that the concerns are valid, they should consider how they could improve the situation – some of the following may help: 

Issues not resolved  

The employee does not have any right of appeal against an informal decision about their concerns, but of course it would be good practice to still try to resolve them (to a reasonable point), if they continue to be dissatisfied.   

Alternatively, they could choose to submit a formal grievance.   

Who should deal with the formal grievance  

There are two stages to the formal grievance procedure: the grievance hearing and the appeal. 

The written particulars of employment or the employee handbook should specify who will deal with a formal grievance, but it would usually be the line manager of the person who has raised the grievance. 

If the complaint is against the line manager, or there is another reason why the employee does not wish to raise it with their manager, an alternative person should be chosen.  

The size of the business and how many members of management there are will affect who should carry out each stage: 

Written grievance 

To start the formal process, the employee should set out their grievance in writing, stating the nature of the grievance and any supporting facts or circumstances. 

Following receipt of the grievance, the grievance chair should write to the employee acknowledging the grievance and arranging a formal grievance hearing. 

The employee should be given a minimum of two working days’ notice to allow them time to prepare. The invite letter should: 

The right to be accompanied – an overview 

If an employee requests to be accompanied at a grievance hearing, the employer must allow them to be accompanied by either a colleague or a trade union official.   

Sometimes a wider choice of representative may be appropriate, for example a relative or a friend.  These could include where: 

Any employee involved in this process should be reminded of the importance of confidentiality.  

A colleague who is acting as a representative can take paid time off work to prepare for and to go to the hearing. 

Case law has held that there is no requirement for an employee’s choice of a particular representative to be reasonable, provided that they are either a colleague or a trade union official.  If it is believed that the person selected is unreasonable, for example it is a colleague who has a similar grievance, advice should be taken XXXX

The representative can put forward the employee’s case, respond to any views expressed and confer with the employee. The representative cannot answer any questions put to the employee or address the hearing if the employee does not wish them to. 

If an employee’s chosen companion cannot attend a grievance hearing at the time arranged, then the employee can ask for a postponement of up to five working days. 

Preparation in advance of hearing 

The grievance chair should ensure they read through the grievance correspondence, accompanying evidence and any other relevant information, in advance of the grievance hearing.  

It is also useful to use the correspondence and evidence to prepare notes of questions that may want to cover.  However, it is essential that any prepared questions are not taken as a definitive list or as a script, particularly as this is the employee’s forum to present all their complaints.  It is important to probe and ask any further relevant questions as these arise at the hearing.   

The grievance chair should bring copies of all relevant documents they have available to the hearing. 

Note taker 

There should be a note taker at the grievance hearing who can take full notes of the hearing, leaving the grievance chair to concentrate on conducting the hearing.  The note taker does not make any decisions but must be told to keep the process confidential.   

The grievance hearing 

During the hearing, the grievance chair should: 

Action following a grievance hearing 

Following the hearing, the grievance chair must decide: 

It is advised that this decision is not made during the hearing, as proper time is needed to consider the matter, as well as potentially other evidence.  Further, a decision in the hearing could look pre-meditated. 

Even if the chair is not upholding the grievance, can they suggest recommendations that could improve the working relationship? 

If the grievance is being upheld, what the employee wants should be considered.  Is this something that can be accommodated?  It may be necessary to consider how similar issues have been dealt with in the past.

Potential outcomes could include: 

If disciplinary action is being taken against a perpetrator, then the employee who raised the grievance should not be informed of the details of this, as this is confidential information about the perpetrator.  However, the grievance chair could confirm that ‘appropriate action’ is being taken.   

Informing the employee of the decision 

A decision letter should always be sent to the employee within good time of the hearing date, confirming the chair’s considerations and decision and any actions that are to be taken.  

The decision letter should confirm: 

Confidentiality should be maintained at all times during the process. All records/notes/witness statements should be securely stored in the employee’s personnel file, along with a copy of the decision letter and minutes of the grievance hearing.  The chair must ensure the grievance information is not passed on to any persons not involved in the process. 

Guide to conducting the grievance hearing  

The below is a guide on how the grievance hearing could be structured, but must not be taken as a script, particularly as this is the employee’s forum to present their concerns.  At any point, if new questions arise, the grievance chair should deal with these during the hearing. 

Grievance chair’s role 

During the hearing, the grievance chair should: 


It is good practice to confirm to the employee that they can ask to take a break if they need to during the hearing, for example if they need a comfort break.  Equally, the grievance chair can choose to take a break if they feel this would be beneficial, particularly to gather their thoughts and consider if there is a need to ask any other questions or cover any other areas. 

Start the hearing 

Presenting concerns 

Types of questions 

It is useful to have a note of questions to ask, prepared in advance of the hearing, but more will no doubt arise as the employee presents their case.  It is essential that any prepared questions are not taken as a definitive list or as a script.  It is important to probe and ask any further relevant questions as these arise at the hearing.   

In terms of the questions: 

The notetaker should write down questions and responses in minutes. 

Concluding hearing 

Understanding the impact of stress in the workplace


Understanding the impact of stress in the workplace

Stress is one of the single biggest causes of work-related absences and ill health. With 914,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, anxiety, or depression in 2020/21 – and 324,000 of those new cases – stress is front and center in the conversation about workplace safety and wellbeing.

In fact, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has identified it as a key pillar of their 2022-2032 strategy, marking an interesting and important shift in the way we look at what it means to be safe and healthy at work.

Increasingly, that conversation is shifting towards health, including being mentally healthy at work – and that’s why it’s so important to make tackling stress in your business a real priority.

But what are the impacts of stress on employee performance, and what causes it in the workplace?

Stressors – hazards which can cause stress – can be broadly grouped into two categories: physical stressors and psychosocial stressors.

Physical stressors at work include poor lighting, high noise levels, and ergonomic factors. Psychosocial stressors are things like unrealistic or unclear job demands, inflexible working hours, and conflict at work.

Physical stressors at work include poor lighting, high noise levels, and ergonomic factors. Psychosocial stressors are things like unrealistic or unclear job demands, inflexible working hours, and conflict at work.

The impact of physical stressors on performance

Physical stressors at work impact not only your employees, but also your business. Stress isn’t the only ill-health effect physical stressors can cause – they can also lead to injury or illness, which keep people out of work for even longer. And that’s not healthy for business.

Stress is also a strong driver of absenteeism (when employees avoid coming into work). Also not healthy for business.

So, you’re facing a loss of working days, employee absenteeism, and a disengaged, unmotivated team. That means productivity goes plunging, ultimately affecting your revenue and profits. And, more importantly, it can mean losing the people who power your business, either from long-term sickness absence or resignations.

But don’t worry. There are always ways to turn it around.

How to effectively reduce physical stressors

Spotted some physical stressors in your workplace, or suspicious that employees are struggling? Here’s what you can do.

To make a real, impactful difference, you’ve got first to understand the issue. Encourage your staff to come and talk to you (or another dedicated person) with an open-door policy or regular meetings. This way, your team can have input on what will actually improve their day-to-day working life. Once you’ve identified your culprits, it’s time to tackle them.

Here’s some common solutions to physical stressors:

The impact of psychosocial stressors on employee performance

Psychosocial stressorsusually appear in environments where workers don’t have enough – or any – control over their work, and they can be one of the biggest drivers of poorer productivity or performance.

If you or your managers are piling work demands on people and not taking stock of how that’s impacting them, you’ve got a recipe for disaster. If people feel their work demands are too much, or that they’re not involved in decisions that impact them, it often leads to stress. And when that happens, you’ll also probably see a loss of productivity.

It can also lead to high staff turnover. When employees become overworked, overwhelmed, stressed, disappointed, or otherwise dissatisfied, they’re more likely to seek a new job where they feel valued, cared for, and comfortable. And no one wants to build that kind of reputation as a business – it’s not great for recruitment or retention.

How to effectively reduce psychosocial stressors

Reducing psychosocial stressors in the workplace can be straightforward if you listen to your employees. Stress is subjective, and it impacts individuals in different ways.

Just because one person is happy with an aspect of the workplace, workload or culture, doesn’t mean it’s not negatively affecting someone else.

So reducing psychosocial stress is about offering support for those who feel they need something changing so they can get on with what they do best.

Here’s some powerful ways you can reduce psychosocial stress:

The effects of stress in the workplace

Stress and the impact on employee absence

Any kind of workplace stress can lead to employee absence. Whether that’s absenteeism because they feel too stressed to come to work or because stress at work has made them ill, these factors all impact productivity levels in your business

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. The greatest source of stress in the workplace is not the work itself, but our thoughts and attitudes towards it. By consciously choosing to focus on the positive aspects of the job, we can diminish feelings of stress and increase our productivity.” -William James

So what can you do to support your people? Well, communication is key. Keeping in contact with your employees and checking up can help you understand the reason for the absence/s, but remember to get the right balance. It’s just as important to not pester staff who are off sick. And the same applies when they’re back at work, so you can check if there are any reasonable adjustments you can make to support them.

The impact of stress on workplace morale

Workplace morale is the foundation of a positive working environment. Combatting workplace stress makes those foundations stronger, so you can build a motivated and engaged team.

How stress affects your bottom line

The cost of stress in the workplace can be detrimental to your business. Stress can impact your bottom line in lots of ways, like:

  1. Decreased productivity.
  2. High turnover of staff.
  3. High turnover of staff.
  4. Less qualified workforce due to poor recruitment and retention.
  5. Risk of enforcement notices from the HSE if caught without stress risk assessments.

Tackling stress is better for business. It’s as simple as that.

Waste Hierarchy Pyramid


Waste Hierarchy Pyramid

Want to know the best practice of managing waste?

Our Health & Safety experts have put together a handy poster. Simply download and share around.

How to identify stress in the workplace


How to identify stress in the workplace

Did you know that 914,000 workers suffered from work-related stress symptoms in 2021/22? That’s a fairly big number – so you can see why we’re bringing attention to the issue. Pressures at work can contribute to stress which can easily spill over into people’s daily life.

We know you put your employees’ well-being at the top of your list, so it’s important to get clued up on the signs of work-related stress so you can support your workers through tough times. Stress, anxiety and depression made up 51% of all work-related ill health cases in 2021/22 – let’s lower that.

What are the signs of work-related stress?

Stress at work can come from a lot of different places. Whether it stems from out-of -work situations or in-work situations, it can affect all of your staff differently. If you notice anyone acting differently than usual, then it might be worth checking in on them.

You might see stress having an impact on an individual employee or even a whole team. In any case though, acting quickly makes it easier for you to reduce or remove the causes of the stress and create a happier workplace.

Identifying work-related stress symptoms

Concerned that your employees are suffering from stress? We’ve listed the types of workplace stress below and how to resolve them.

Signs of stress in your employees

When you’re looking for signs your employees might be suffering from stress, it’s crucial to stay alert. Are any of your employees often absent from work, with no real reason? If so, take note; absenteeism is a key indicator of someone struggling with stress at work. They could also be turning up late for work or just finding ways to spend less time in the workplace. But we’re not saying that you need to jump on your staff if they have a few days off with a cold – it’s just something to be aware of.

Signs of work-related stress aren’t just limited to physical indicators either. If you see a dip in their performance or mood at work, something could have knocked their confidence and motivation. So, when you’re concerned about employees’ work levels, why not check with them if there’s anything you can do to help?

Signs of stress in your team

You might spot some wider indications when it comes to stress in your team. From more frequent arguments, complaints, and a higher staff turnover. A high-stress environment is not a place people want to work, leading to employees leaving to find other work.

Reports of stress and increased absences could lead to a lower team performance, which leads to loss of revenue for your business – which no one wants. So how can you eradicate (or at least reduce) workplace stress? Well, a stress risk assessment is your best friend.

The importance of conducting a workplace stress risk assessment

Ultimately, all employers have to assess the stress risks of their staff under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. And it also falls under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 where employers are to “ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare” of all their employees. But we know you’re not just here to make sure you meet the legalities of it all. You genuinely care about your amazing team! Which brings us to another important reason…

Supporting your staff before, and when they are experiencing workplace stress symptoms brings huge benefits to you and your team. It gives them confidence at work because they know you’re there for support whenever they need it. And because of this, you’ll help build a more productive, happier team who hit their targets and enjoy working for your business.

What to include in a stress risk assessment

There’s plenty you should consider including and addressing in your stress risk assessment. And actually, The HSE have developed 6 stress management standards that employers can implement to help reduce work-related stress. Let’s break it down.

Demands – Can your employees cope with the demands of their job? High demands = high stress. You could try to evaluate workloads and make sure it’s achievable and realistic.

Control – How much control do your employees have over how they work? Try giving them more control so they can use their own initiative and ways of working. Welcome and encourage new skills, because at the end of the day, individual people know how they work best.

Support – Are your team aware of the support on offer? It’s worth thinking about what policies and procedures are available to staff. Try to cover as many bases as possible. 

Relationships – How’s the relationship between your staff? Unfortunately, bullying and harassment does happen in some workplaces, and as an employer it’s your duty to prevent this and address unacceptable behaviour. 

Role – Do your employees fully understand their role? Systems should be in place to stay clear of any role conflict, whether that’s a process to report it, clearly defined expectations of roles or proper training and mentorship.

Change – Are your staff told about changes at work? Any changes that can impact employees should be shared so everyone is on the same page and can properly prepare.

Need a hand creating, storing, distributing or updating risk assessments? We’re here for you with workplace risk assessment support. And, our Health & Safety consultants and intelligent Atlas hub take the hassle and complexity out of workplace risk assessments.

The difference between work pressure and stress

Pressure makes diamonds, right? That’s true, and pressure is inevitable in any job. But not everyone deals with pressure well, and there’s a fine line between work pressure and stress. This is where communication is key. Some people love targets to drive them forwards, others prefer to work in a different way. Which is why having regular one-to-ones with your staff will help you make sure they’re happy with their workload – and manage it if they’re not.

How to minimise workplace stress


How managers can reduce stress in the workplace

Want to know how to reduce workplace stress? It’s all about recognising and minimising the signs and symptoms of stress. The first step is to be able to identify stress in the workplace. Then, it’s down to employers and managers to make changes to tackle it. 

Carry out a stress risk assessment

If you’re wondering how to reduce workplace stress, a workplace stress risk assessment will be your best friend. They’ll help you see any potential causes of stress, so you can fix them. Getting a solid stress risk assessment in place should mean you’ll see fewer instances of stress at work. Not only will it keep you covered in line with Health & Safety laws, but it’ll help you build a happier and more productive team. Everyone loves a win-win!

It doesn’t stop there though. To make a difference, it’s the next steps that really matter. For example, if you put in the stress risk assessment that you’ll look into supporting workers by considering flexible working hours, then it’s important you act on it. Then, if you feel like everything is going to plan, great! Any changes at work? It’s then time to review regularly to keep up to date. So, support your team when they need it. After all, they’re helping your business become bigger and better.

Communicate with your employees

Build a culture where an open-door policy between managers and staff is embraced. It’s a fantastic way to develop positive relationships in the workplace where stress can be openly talked about with no judgement. Or, you could always put in regular one-on-ones with your team – another way to give them a chance to chat about any concerns they have.

Let your staff know you’ve got their back. Regular communication makes them feel heard, so let’s get started.

Keep the workload manageable

High workloads? A big no-no. They actually account for 44% of stress or depression at work, so it’s essential to make workloads manageable. Have realistic deadlines and talk about how many hours an employee should have.

Want a productive work environment that tackles stress at the core? This is one way to start. Helping your staff become comfortable with their workload is a great way to build a positive work culture.

Set clear, achievable goals for your employees

Goals should be clear and achievable. Because if an employee starts a task and hasn’t been briefed properly, it can cause stress when they’re not entirely sure what they need to do.

So how do you make sure you do this? Well, there are task management tools you could offer staff to support them, or you can also let them know you’re available if they need to discuss any tasks with you. This way, your employees will feel confident to ask questions before and during the tasks.

It’s also worth asking your employees if they feel they’ve had proper training in the areas they work in. If they say no, you can fill in the gaps so they can feel more confident in their abilities. Investing in your people’s development only shows them how much you value their contribution – leading to a greater sense of purpose at work.

Take the guesswork away when it comes to your people’s main objectives. If they know exactly what their targets are, they can create a path for themselves on how to get there, whether it’s a revenue target or a specific role within the company. Regular discussions can clear this up, so everyone knows what they’re aiming for.

Focus on employee wellbeing

Making employee wellbeing a priority in your business  will go leaps and bounds in building a positive working environment with an engaged workforce. And there are many ways you can contribute to this.

Try appointing wellbeing champions who can be there for staff who need support, or if they want to give suggestions about improving wellbeing in their workplace.

An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can also be extremely useful. If your staff feel they need to speak to a confidential counsellor outside of work, they can. And they cover a huge range of issues. Grief? Stress? Money troubles? EAPs show staff you care about their wellbeing.

Flexibility can be key to an employee’s wellbeing. A more flexible working environment gives staff more time to do things like exercise or ‘life admin’ tasks in and around work. It can also help take the stress off parents who need to think about childcare. Remote working and flexible working hours can really benefit your staff.

Make supporting your team a habit

Reducing stress isn’t just a one-time deal. The process is going to need constant attention – from identifying signs of stress to creating a risk assessment and then acting on how to reduce workplace stress. The support you give when it comes to communicating with employees, managing workloads, setting goals, and focusing on wellbeing all contribute to minimising stress in the workplace and ultimately building a happy workforce and a successful business.

What to include in your workplace stress policy


What to include in your workplace stress policy

So, you’re looking at what to include in your managing stress at work policy. We can help with that.

A workplace stress policy can benefit your team and reassure them that you have considered their health and wellbeing. As well as significantly improving employees’ mental health, it’ll bring enormous benefits to your business and its processes. 

Why are workplace stress policies important?

Of course, the most important reason for implementing workplace stress policies is to help reduce employee stress. By putting your staff first and helping protect their well-being, you’ll see a more productive workforce that is happy with their roles and workloads.

They are an excellent tool for outlining how you, as an employer, will help manage stress in the workplace. We all want to build that trust with staff, right? Well, this is a fantastic way to start. Show your team that you can own the responsibility in managing workplace stress by creating a policy that tackles the risks and provides guidance in situations where employees are stressed. 

And that brings us nicely to our next point: guidance. A workplace stress policy supports staff if they are feeling stressed. Clear guidance is sometimes what people need when they begin to feel stressed. With a stress policy, you’ll be able to plan for these situations based on your stress risk assessment and advise them on what to do next with information about how you’ll help. 

How to use HSE’s six management standards in your stress policy

The HSE’s six management standards are always worth considering when creating a workplace stress policy. Take a look at our previous blog (link to cluster topic 4 blog) to see how you can use these standards to create your stress risk assessment. But here are some considerations we recommend when you’re putting together your managing stress at work policy.


What are you currently demanding from your staff? Are they realistic expectations for completing tasks to the highest standard? This is one thing to bear in mind since this is a common cause of stress in the workplace. It’s essential to have processes in place to support employees experiencing stress from heavy workloads, such as wellness action plans. 


It’s always important to offer freedom to staff. Include ways in which employees can have control over their work. This could be a choice of when they take their breaks, discussing work patterns, and encouraging staff to develop new skills if they feel they need them to carry out their work.


Consider how you’ll support staff with resources. You’ll be able to tackle the problem head-on and find ways to help. An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) might be something you could implement to support mental health at work. Whether they’re affected by stress in or out of work, EAPs are a great way to provide external support to those members of staff who need someone to talk to.

The use of appraisals is something else you could include in your managing stress at work policy. Scheduling these regular catch-ups with employees offers them a chance to talk about anything that’s stressing them out. It helps you to catch the issue before it becomes a bigger problem. So you can both chat about what support is needed to reduce stress.


How do you promote positive behaviour at work? This is another thing to think about. Systems must be in place to deal with unacceptable behaviour, whether bullying, harassment, or any form of discrimination. Perhaps outline that conduct of this kind will not be tolerated and include the processes to follow if anyone does experience it.


Clarity is key and can help massively when it comes to helping employees understand their roles and responsibilities. In your workplace stress policy, elaborate on the systems you have in place so staff can raise any uncertainties or conflicts in their role. This way, you can define their role and agree on their responsibilities.


Change can severely impact an employee’s mental wellbeing. It’s up to you to make sure staff are well aware of any changes in the organisation. Include how you’ll provide your team with support and information about any upcoming changes and how this might affect them. Strong communication will help reduce employee stress as they’ll be expecting the changes and will know what it means for them.

What are the legal risks of not having a workplace stress policy

Although a workplace stress policy is not a legal requirement, it can help you if claims for constructive dismissal were ever brought against your business. By not having a workplace stress policy, you could be making yourself susceptible to these claims under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which says “employers have a legal obligation to ensure (so far as is reasonably practicable) the health of employees in the workplace”. 

Not only that, you could also breach statutory duties if you fail to control the risks that have already been identified.

An employers guide to work-related stress


An employers guide to work-related stress

What proportion of work-related illness is due to stress? It might be more than you think. 

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), stress, anxiety and depression accounted for 51% of all work-related illnesses in 2021/22, making it one of the leading causes of absence and poor productivity.

Work-related stress is when work pressures become more than someone can cope with – perhaps because of long hours, or a heavy workload, or conflicts at work. And it’s essential as an employer to understand how it can have a massive impact on an employee’s physical and mental health, so it doesn’t end up affecting things like your business’ safety, recruitment, employee retention, and productivity. 

With 914,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2021/22, 17 million working days were lost. So let’s take some steps to address that. Here’s your guide to identifying, minimising, understanding and managing workplace stress.

How to identify stress in the workplace

Want to know how to identify stress in the workplace? Here are a few tips. 

Signs of stress at work come in many different forms. They’re not always obvious, which is why it’s important to have the right measures in place to help you and your managers to recognise them – like Mental Health First Aiders or regular 1:1 catch-ups.

When you’re looking out for signs of stress in your employees, there are many key indicators (but bear in mind that these happening as a one-off won’t necessarily mean they’re suffering from stress). Here are some signs that could indicate your employees are stressed (if it is a change in the way they usually act):

  • More time off work
  • Arriving for work later
  • Become more twitchy or nervous

A change in the way someone thinks or feels can also be a sign, for example:

  • Mood swings
  • Being withdrawn
  • Loss of motivation, commitment and confidence
  • Increased emotional reactions (being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive)

There are also signs you can look out for that could suggest your team is stressed, for example:

  • Arguments
  • Higher staff turnover
  • More reports of stress
  • More sickness absence
  • Decreased performance
  • More complaints and grievances

Don’t forget, there’s always going to be pressure in the workplace and it can cause some low levels of stress, but when an employee’s health, wellbeing, and performance starts to suffer, then it’s a sign to take action.

How to minimise workplace stress

So what’s next? Once you feel like you’re able to spot signs of employee stress at work and that the managers in your business can do the same, it’s time to lay out a plan for how to minimise workplace stress. Here are some ways you can reduce employee stress:

  • Do a stress risk assessment
  • Communicate regularly with employees
  • Keep their workload manageable
  • Set clear, achievable goals for your employees
  • Follow the HSE’s six management standards for stress

There’s no beating around the bush, stress risk assessments are a must. Legally, it’s up to employers to protect their employees from stress at work by doing a stress risk assessment and acting on it. They help you identify the potential causes of workplace stress, and implement effective controls so that you can take the steps you need to reduce stress in your workplace.

How often do you communicate with your employees? Other than asking how their day is going or what tasks need doing? Good, effective communication is about building a work culture where things like stress can be discussed openly or in regular sessions.

Figures from the HSE showed that before the coronavirus pandemic, the predominant cause of work-related stress, depression or anxiety from the Labour Force Survey (2009/10-2011/12) was workload, particularly tight deadlines, too much work or too much pressure or responsibility. So let’s change that to help you build a happier and more productive team!

Clarity is fundamental. Without it, you get confusion and stress. So, by setting clear, achievable goals for your staff, they’ll know exactly what they need to do. Want to find out how you can do this?

Understanding the impact of stress in the workplace

Understanding the impact of stress in the workplace is so important – and not just the impact on your people, but also your business. You may see a range of physical and psychosocial stressors in your workplace, which can drastically reduce an employee’s productivity and efficiency.

Physical stressors

Risk factors such as loud noise, ergonomic issues, poor workspace layouts, ventilation and lighting can affect your employees’ wellbeing and, ultimately, your bottom line. These can lead to the following:

  • High physical stress 
  • Increased employee absenteeism
  • A disengaged, unmotivated team
  • Decreased productivity

But it’s not all doom and gloom. You can make positive changes to improve your work environment to reduce these physical stressors. 

Psychosocial stressors

These are risk factors that may affect workers’ psychological responses to their work and workplace conditions (including working relationships with supervisors and colleagues). Do your workers have much control over their work? Do they believe they’re not a part of decisions that will impact them? Do they think that their workload is too much? These can all be classed as psychosocial stressors.

In the workplace, psychosocial stressors can lead to:

  • Lower employee performance (hitting productivity and efficiency)
  • High staff turnover (damaging your reputation and budget)
  • How to manage stress-related employee absences

It’s common for stressed employees to take periods of sickness absence. When this happens, the next steps are all about how you can support them to return to work. 

The question is: How do you manage stress-related employee absences? We’ve explained how valuable communication is, and it’s no different in these circumstances. Whether they’re absent long-term or short-term, keeping in regular contact through things like welfare meetings means you can check in and start discussing ways to help them get back to work. 

Of course, if someone is suffering from stress they may need some time without any contact in order to recuperate. So make sure each situation is considered independently, and get medical advice if you need to. 

On the other hand, there could be times when an employee is absent, and it doesn’t look like they can return to work. This is when dismissal could be considered as an option. 

We always advise that this is a last resort, and you should always seek professional advice. In such a sensitive situation, guidance is needed so you’re sure they’re being dismissed correctly. Otherwise, there could be claims brought at an employment tribunal. 

Managing stress-related absences is one thing – but how do you reduce them? This is where stress risk assessments are effective. Doing a stress risk assessment helps you better manage stress in the workplace by giving you a structured way to spot any stressors or risks and put controls in place to manage them.

What to include in your workplace stress policy

Creating a stress policy for your business? Good plan. It’s a great way to show your staff how you’ll protect and support them and provide guidance regarding roles, responsibilities and processes. 

Let’s revisit the HSE’s six management standards, which you can use when considering what to include in your workplace stress policy.

Demands: Do employers have realistic expectations regarding employees’ workload? 

Control: Do employees have a say in their work patterns? It’s not about letting people do whatever they want, but giving them the freedom to do their work in the best way they see fit. 

Support: Support plans are your best bet for helping staff suffering from stress. By providing them with resources, advice, and guidance, you’ll help them get back to their usual self. 

Relationships: Daily interactions make up a big chunk of a person’s day-to-day life, which is why it’s essential to build a work culture that promotes positive behaviour and the equality and inclusion of everyone. 

Role: What process do you have in place to allow people to raise that they’re uncertain about their role? A clear process helps reduce confusion and build a stress-free, more productive environment. 

Change: Change can be highly stressful for some employees, and it’s crucial to remember that you play a critical role in helping staff to adapt to the changes.

How to manage stress-related employee absences


How to manage stress-related employee absences

17 million working days were lost to work-related stress, anxiety and depression in 2021/22. That’s a huge loss in productivity and, when you’re a small business, it can be crippling. 

Stress-related workplace absences can be difficult to manage. Whether you’re facing long-term stress leave or short-term, it can point to issues with your employees’ experience at work which you need to pick up on and address. 

So, how can you make a difference as an employer and get a handle on stress-related absences? Here’s some top tips from the smart HR and Health & Safety people here at Citation. 

What is the best approach to handling stress-related absences?

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to handling stress-related absences. People are different. And so it’s natural that what makes them stressed and what gets them to a place where they need time off work is going to be unique to them. So that’s where good communication comes in.  

If an employee is on long-term stress leave, think about setting up regular welfare meetings to keep that communication going and discuss if there’s anything you can do to help get them back to work. After all, it’s going to be a lot harder for them to feel comfortable returning to work if they don’t feel supported. 

If the absences are more frequent but not long-term, then it’s important to investigate what’s causing them stress. You can’t fix a problem you’re not aware of, so knowing any potential triggers or hazards is really important for reducing the chance of sick leave happening again. 

How to implement management standards

The management standards set out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are designed to help you get a handle on stress in the workplace – and they’re what you need to take into account when putting together your stress risk assessments (a legal requirement, by the way). These are:

What are the legal risks of stress-related workplace absence

Employees could bring claims against your business as a result of stress sick leave, including disability discrimination, constructive unfair dismissal, unfair dismissal and personal injury claims. No one wants to be in that position. 

And, as it’s a legal requirement to make sure your people are safe and healthy at work, it’s important that you can prove you’ve taken proactive steps to address any stressors in the workplace with stress risk assessments – otherwise you’re putting yourself at risk of enforcement action from the HSE. 

Returning to work following stress-related absences

Employees returning to work after a stress-related absence? Here’s what to do. 

As we’ve said, communication is key. Make it your priority to get to the root of the issue so you can stop it from happening again. That can be done both formally and informally – here’s some tips from us:

Short-term absence

A return-to-work interview is a great starting point for an employee returning from a short-term absence. This way, you’ll be able to sit down and discuss why they’re taking stress leave and if you can do anything to help them.

Long-term absence

The same applies to employees returning from a long-term absence – a return-to-work interview is crucial. However, keep in mind here that it’s likely you’ll be dealing with a more serious or complicated condition, so you may also need to put in place reasonable adjustments. 

Once you’ve found out what the problem or problems are, supporting them with reasonable adjustments – such as flexible working and disability support – can help them settle back into work comfortably, and make sure you’re meeting your legal obligations. 

What to do if an employee is unable to return to work

If an employee can’t return to work, it’s worth getting a medical report to understand the employee’s condition and if there’s any way you can support them to return to work.

But if an employee can’t return in what you see as a reasonable period, you might need a discussion with them about a capability dismissal. This can be tricky and really needs to be done right – so call our Employment Law experts here for more support, or check out our free guide to dismissals for a good starting point. Remember – we’re always here for you. 

How to reduce stress-related employee absence 

The big question – how can you reduce stress-related employee absence? The best, most proven way is pretty simple – by doing your stress risk assessments. By covering all the HSE’s management standards, you can properly tackle stress at its source and reduce stress-related employee absence. 

Why not check out our blog about understanding the impact of stress in the workplace to understand more about what causes stress-related employee absence?