FCS Associates

Stress – Is it H&S or HR?

May 19, 2015

The simple short answer is – it is a Health & Safety issue that generally ends up being managed by Human Resources.  By definition, stress is a reaction to excessive pressure in whatever form it manifests itself. More accurately it arises when there is disparity between the demands on the employee and their ability to respond to them, when the individual concerned has little or no control.

The main stressors that will bring rise to stress related illness are:

  • Job Factors

    Health and Safety for SMEs

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  • role conflicts
  • relationships
  • organisational factors
  • workload
  • medical events
  • personality traits.

Symptoms will be presented in 1 of 2 ways, on the individual/s concerned or the organization.  For the individual employee we might see, an uncharacteristic depressed mood, an employee mentioning they have raised blood pressure, an employee starting to display the affects of alcohol use, they may become very short tempered or even complain of chest pains.

What does this mean for the organisation?

There might be raised levels of absenteeism, staff turnover, poor industrial relations, greater number of accidents and dips in productivity.

Where there is a distinct cross over between H&S & HR on the subject of stress, is when an employee resorts to consulting his GP because he or she cannot cope with the abnormal physical and mental strain upon them, resulting in absence.  HR’s role is very much to support the management team of organisations with their staff management on a performance level and absenteeism is usually 1 Key Performance Indicator organisations use to measure their performance as it directly affects productivity and profitability.  If an employee ends up being off work with a stress related illness such as depression or anxiety resulting from disproportionate pressures at work, then this generally ends up being managed in the first instance by HR departments, or by line managers with HR support. The outcome of the absence will be one of 3 broad avenues.

  1. Dismissal – Through whichever route, very often as a result of a claim against the organization.
  2. Return to normal duties – Usually occurs following a period of managed return, where the organization accepts greater responsibility for the employees welfare and adjusts the job role to reduce the pressures.
  3. Return to alternative duties – Usually occurs again following a period of managed return, where the organization maybe unwilling to amend the original job role, or recognize the role was stressful (or both), or the employee accepts (maybe reluctantly) that they are not capable of undertaking the original role in previous or amended form.

Imagine if…

To better answer the overriding question,  imagine the situation if this was an employee who permanently damaged themselves as a result of an accident at work.  If this was a permanent injury resulting in the employee being handicapped in some way then it is very likely the employee would file a claim and the company would defend itself.  Depending on the outcome this will lead to exactly the same set of options previously mentioned, thereby hopefully clarifying why stress is a H&S issue and the hazards associated with stress need to be identified and controlled using a hierarchy of preventative measures.

Learn more about our Health and Safety Package for SMEs

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