Work Related Stress

Created on: 24 Jan 2018 | Last modified: 01 Aug 2023


1.1 The following resolution was approved by the 2012 Annual General Meeitng:

"This AGM instructs Council to:

(a) Highlight the impact of work-related stress in schools and colleges;

(b) Promote and support the use of the HSE Stress Management Standards via Local Association Secretaries and school representatives;

(c) Campaign through the STUC for regulations or a code of practice to prevent work-related stress."

1.2 The 2012 Annual General Meeting approved a paper which reported on levels of stress. This paper is appended (Appendix A). The incidences of work related stress reported was surprisingly low.

The EIS concluded that this may have arisen from the fact that stress itself is not a medical condition and in the past it may have arisen from a reluctance to set out work related stress when self-certifying or submitting medical lines. it was also clear that a number of employers do not record work related stress as a separate category.

1.3 The managing of work related stress is a major issue not only for trade unions, but for employers.


2.1 In 2011 the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development reported that, although overall statistics across the economy had remained static, since 2010 stress was recorded as the most common cause of long-term sickness, replacing acute medical conditions. Over a fifth of respondents indicated that work related stress was the most common cause of long term absence. 

2.2 The incidence of work related stress is higher in the public sector than in the private sector. The average level of employee absence across the whole economy is 7.7 days, or 3.4% of working days, but extending to 9.1 days in the public sector. 

2.3 The survey also noted that 69% of public sector employers are more likely to be seeking to proactively manage stress (69% as opposed to 49% of private sector employers). However, the ability of employers to provide proactive solutions can be affected by cuts in budgets. It is worth noting that 43% of public sector employers reported that redundancies were being contemplated compared to 17% in the private sector. Job insecurity and uncertainty adds to employee stress. 

2.4 It was also reported that more than a quarter of all employers were reporting an increase of "presenteeism" in the twelve months of the survey, that is people reporting for work than ill. 

2.5 As far back as 2007, the Sainsbury Centre for General Health esimated that the total cost to UK employers of mental health problems among their employees was nearly £26 billion each year: this included the cost of mental health - related absenteeism, presenteeism and employee turnover. 

2.6 Evidence from HSE is appended (Appendix B) setting our evidence from the Labour Force Survey on Stress and Psychological Disorders. 

2.7 Dr Jill Miller, CIPD, advised, when commenting on the CIPD evidence referred to the rise in stress absences, that "highlighting the heightened pressure many people feel under in the workplace as a result of the prolonged economic downturn. Stress is a particular challenge in the public sector where the sheer amount of major change and restructuring  would appear to be the root cause."

2.8 The HSE evidence cited above places health professionals, teaching and educational professionals and caring personal services staff as occupations reporting the highest rates of cases with work related stress. In August the Scottish Labour Party following a FOISA request, stated that psychological issues accounted for 22 per cent of teacher absence in Scotland, rising to 26% of sick days in Glasgow and 33% in Falkirk. 

Legal Duty

3.1 Employers have a duty to identify potential causes of stress and reduce these beofre they have an impact on employees. This is set out in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 which requires employers to undertake suitable and sufficient risk assessments on all risks to employers including the risk of stress-related ill health arising from work. These regulations built upon the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974. 

Management Standards

4.1 The Health and Safety Executive Managing Standards is not a legal requirement on employment but it does provide a framework which can be used by employers to assist in meeting legal requirements. 

4.2 The six Management Standards cover:

Demands - includes workloads, work patterns and the work environment. 

Control - how much say a person has in the way they do their work. 

Support - includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues. 

Role - whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles. 

Change - how organisational change (large and small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.

Relationships - promoting positive working to avoid conflicts and dealing with unacceptable behaviour. 

4.3 The Management Standards toolkit set out in Appendix C. The HSE website sets out how to use the toolkit and analyse the results. 

Other Support Measures

5.1 There are a number of other tools which can be used to support the management of stress in the workplace. 

5.2 A number of organisations have developed their own toolkits. An example is appended from an English Country Council which is based on the Management Standards but adapted locally (Appendix D). 

5.3 One advantage of an "in-house" toolkit is that it can be devised to cover particular posts, or grades of post. 

5.4 Roberston Cooper, a business psychology company, has developed a six essentials approach to guide the process of workplace well-being and employee engagement. Robertson Cooper argue that a clear structure creates the best psychological working environment. The process is appended (Appendix E). 

The Case for Stress Management

6.1 The need for effective stress management does not relate solely to employee well-being. 

6.2 However, for employers the costs of absence arising from work related mental health requires management time and effort, the recruitment of temporary staff and can lead to higher levels of staff turnover. A proactive and supprotive stress management policy can encourage commitment and loyalty and encourages employees to think positively of the employer, thereby improving job satisfaction. 

6.3 Stress management is a key element of EIS HASAW training. This paper will inform a rewrite of the paperwork. 


7.1 The art critic and social commentator, John Ruskin stated, as far as back as 1851 that there are three conditions under which people may be happy with their work: "They must be fit for it, they must not do too much of it, and they must have a sense of success in it."

7.2 All these years later this encapsulates the approach needed to address stress in the workplace. 

7.3 This paper should be forwarded to Executive Committee as part of a trade union campaign to ensure regulations or a code of practice are provided to prevent work-related stress. 

7.4 This paper should be copied to LA Secretaries and school representatives.

Work Related Stress Policy PDF