WORKPLACE STRESS POLICY AND PROCEDURE

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1 WORKPLACE STRESS POLICY AND PROCEDURE

2 NORTHERN IRELAND FIRE & RESCUE SERVICE WORKPLACE STRESS POLICY & PROCEDURE SECTION 1 INTRODUCTION 1.1 Introduction 1.2 Aims and Objectives 1.3 Scope 1.4 Confidentiality and the Data Protection Act 1.5 Equality of Opportunity 1.6 Monitoring and Reviewing the Policy 1.7 Representative Bodies 1.8 Further Information and Guidance SECTION 2 WORKPLACE STRESS POLICY 2.1 What is Stress? 2.2 Stress Management Roles and Responsibilities SECTION 3 WORKPLACE STRESS PROCEDURES AND GUIDANCE 3.1 What are the Effects of Stress? 3.2 Indicators that there may be a Stress Problem 3.3 Assessing the Risk to Staff 3.4 Responsibilities of Employees who feel they may be suffering from Stress 3.5 Procedures for Reporting cases of Work-Related stress Absence 3.6 Support Mechanisms 3.7 Develop a Return to Work Strategy SECTION 4 ASSOCIATED DOCUMENTS Appendix A Assessment of Risk (Stress-Related) Appendix B Quarterly Counselling Referral Returns Issue Date: 16 January 2006 Revised: Issued By: Aidan Magennis DO Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Human Resources Department Workplace Stress Policy & Procedure 2 of 12 POL-016 (v.1)

3 SECTION 1 INTRODUCTION 1.1 INTRODUCTION The Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service is committed to protecting the health, safety and welfare of our employees and recognises that workplace stress is a health and safety issue and acknowledges the importance of identifying and reducing workplace stressors. This Policy and Procedure has been developed in accordance with legislative requirements and good practice from a number of different sources including the Health and Safety Executive. 1.2 AIMS AND OBJECTIVES The objectives of the Policy are to reduce and control stress by: Identifying all workplace stressors and conducting risk assessments to eliminate stress or control the risks from stress. These risk assessments will be regularly reviewed. Consulting with Trade Union Safety Representatives on all proposed action relating to the prevention of workplace stress. Providing training for all managers and supervisory staff in good management practices. Providing confidential counselling for staff affected by stress caused by either work or external factors. Providing adequate resources to enable managers to implement the Service s agreed stress management strategy. Ensuring that staff are fully trained to discharge their duties. 1.3 SCOPE It is the policy of the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that no employee is subjected to a level of stress due to work that is detrimental to their health. However, it is accepted that the Service should deal with issues and incidents that are stressful. This policy deals with unreasonable stress. The Service aims to create an environment where, if unreasonable workplace stress does occur, it can be dealt with openly and fairly. The Service also commits itself to investigating all claims of ill health due to unreasonable workplace stress to ensure appropriate action is taken to prevent any recurrence of the situation. This Policy applies to all employees of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service. 1.4 CONFIDENTIALITY AND THE DATA PROTECTION ACT All relevant parties will maintain confidentiality as appropriate. All records should be kept confidential and retained in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998, which requires the release of certain data to individuals on their request. Workplace Stress Policy & Procedure 3 of 12 POL-016 (v.1)

4 1.5 EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service is committed to equality of opportunity for all employees. In light of this commitment, and in fulfilment of our duty of care to employees, this Stress Policy has been developed to support all employees, irrespective of role or position. The policy will be reviewed periodically in accordance with Section 75 equality obligations and best practice. 1.6 MONITORING AND REVIEWING THE POLICY The Occupational Health Unit will collect and maintain anonymous statistical information provided from Area Command and from Counsellors. The information will be analysed, assessed and stress-related issues may be raised for consideration with the Health and Safety Strategic Forum to evaluate the progress that the Service is making towards meeting its objectives. The Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service gives this Policy a high profile and welcomes feedback from staff, management and the Representative Bodies. The Occupational Health Unit will review this Policy and Procedure periodically. The Service will encourage consultation with employees of the Service and outside agencies, in accordance with consultation arrangements outlined within Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act, 1998, in reviewing the implementation and effectiveness of this policy. 1.7 REPRESENTATIVE BODIES The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service will seek agreement from the representative bodies in all matters pertaining to stress management in the organisation. 1.8 FURTHER INFORMATION AND GUIDANCE Queries regarding any aspect of this policy and procedure should be taken up with the Occupational Health Unit in the first instance. The Occupational Health Unit will provide advice and guidance in relation to unreasonable workplace stress. Advice and guidance is also available from Human Resources staff and Area Divisional Officer (Personnel/Training). SECTION 2 WORKPLACE STRESS POLICY 2.1 WHAT IS STRESS? The Health and Safety Executive define stress as the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon them. This makes an important distinction between pressure, which can be a positive stage if managed correctly, and stress which can be detrimental to health. If these pressures or demands become too great, they can induce, in anyone, the harmful or potentially harmful mental and physical feelings and reactions commonly known as stress. Under-demand as well as over-demand can contribute to a stress situation. Workplace Stress Policy & Procedure 4 of 12 POL-016 (v.1)

5 The severity of the stress will depend on the imbalance we perceive between the demands of the job against our ability to satisfactorily respond to them and also our perception of the possible consequences of failing to do so. It may also be affected by our fitness and resilience at the time, the principal being that different people react in different ways to the same pressures and demands. 2.2 STRESS MANAGEMENT ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service As your employer the Authority accepts its responsibility to create a working environment which provides support for all employees and harnesses the positive aspects of stress while keeping the adverse effects to a minimum. The Service believes that stress control is a management issue, and will strive to address this by ensuring that there is clarity in all our priorities and business objectives, and that effective support is in place to recognise the causes of stress and reduce/control stress, where possible. The Service is committed to the pursuit of continuous improvement in all its operations, and will seek to establish working relationships based upon mutual trust. The Service recognises the right of every employee to be able to go about his or her work with dignity and respect. Behaviour that is, or is construed to be, hostile, demeaning or degrading will not be tolerated. All necessary resources will be given to: assessing the causes of stress at work; introducing measures to reduce or control it Managers Area The Service respects the fact that circumstances outside work may occasionally create stress for individual employees, and managers will strive to ensure that Service policies are applied with sympathy and flexibility to help find solutions at work to balance such external pressures. Where an employee becomes ill through stress, management will seek to identify the causes of stress and will attempt to reduce and control the stress through consultation with the employee. Divisional Officers (Personnel and Training) will ensure that all operational staff which they are responsible for receive stress lecture 1 and 2 and that the Student Handout is circulated to all new Firefighters posted to Stations. Workplace Stress Policy & Procedure 5 of 12 POL-016 (v.1)

6 2.2.4 Employees Health and Safety legislation specifies that all employees have a duty of care for their own health and safety, and this includes a duty of care to recognise, identify and reduce stress. Any employee who believes that they are suffering adverse effects from their work or work environment should inform their Line Manager, or the Occupational Health Unit. While hard work and commitment to the Organisation will continue to be appreciated and rewarded, all employees are encouraged to retain the energy and capacity to achieve a work/life balance. The Service has policies and support mechanisms to achieve this objective. All employees have a legal obligation to report any illness or injury that they feel may be caused or exacerbated by work. Employees who believe they may be suffering from stress in the workplace should bring this to the attention of Service management by either alerting their Line Manager or bringing their concerns to the attention of the Occupational Health Unit Occupational Health Unit The Service will provide support counselling if appropriate and it will be offered to all staff, regardless of religious belief, political opinion, race, gender, martial status, age, disability, responsibility for dependants, sexual orientation, grade or job. The Service will ensure that advice is made available to assist staff in managing personal stress and training is made available to assist managers in managing stress in the workplace. All new appointees will receive induction training to ensure that they are aware of the Service s arrangement regarding Occupational Health, the confidential counselling line and the management of stress. New firefighter trainees will receive input through the Occupational Health Training Module on the Operational Trainees Course. SECTION 3 WORKPLACE STRESS PROCEDURES AND GUIDANCE 3.1 WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF STRESS? On individuals Emotionally: Anxiety, anger, frustration, moodiness, irritability, loss of pleasure and interest, despair, depression and impaired sleep. Physically: Physical effects may include a weakened immune system, raised blood pressure, heart disease, tenseness, tiredness, appetite disturbance, nausea, headaches, light-headedness and the emergence or exacerbation of symptoms in any system of the body. Workplace Stress Policy & Procedure 6 of 12 POL-016 (v.1)

7 Mentally: Impairment of perception, concentration, memory, judgement, decisiveness, accuracy, motivation and creativity. Increased use/dependence on caffeine, alcohol or drugs may occur. This is likely to exacerbate all of the above Interpersonally Relationships may be more difficult, both at work and elsewhere At work Attendance can become either excessive or extremely poor. Regular bouts of recurring illness can occur. Timekeeping can become erratic. Performance can be impaired and the level of accidents rise. 3.2 INDICATORS THAT THERE MAY BE A STRESS PROBLEM Managers or those with supervisory responsibility may notice some of the following symptoms occur within their area of responsibility: High levels of sickness absence; High staff turnover; Increase in accident levels; Increase in number of disputes/grievances/complaints; Noticeable reduction in performance levels. Where they feel that any of the above may be the case, they should contact the Occupational Health Unit to seek further advice. 3.3 ASSESSING THE RISK TO STAFF Legislation and Service Policy require all managers to undertake an assessment of the risks arising from work hazards. This is essential if the employee is to be prevented from returning to the same situation that led to the initial bout of absence Once the Line Manager is aware of a stress related ailment they should refer to the guidance in Appendix A and must complete an Assessment of Risk Record & Report (Stress Related) (SC21). The Line Manager must ensure that they identify any problems or potential causes of stress, taking into account sickness rates, signs of stress, job content, interpersonal relationships in the workplace, possible home stresses and employee feedback The Line Manager will assess the likelihood of harm and develop an action plan to manage the individual s wellbeing. Workplace Stress Policy & Procedure 7 of 12 POL-016 (v.1)

8 3.4 RESPONSIBILITIES OF EMPLOYEES WHO FEEL THEY MAY BE SUFFERING FROM STRESS All employees have a legal obligation to report any illness or injury that they feel may be caused or exacerbated by work. Employees who believe they may be suffering from stress in the workplace should bring this to the attention of Service management by either alerting their Line Manager or bringing their concerns to the attention of the Occupational Health Unit. 3.5 PROCEDURES FOR REPORTING CASES OF WORK-RELATED STRESS ABSENCE Where a Line Manager receives notification that an employee s absence is attributed to work-related stress, they should take immediate action to investigate the circumstances with the individual relating to possible causes of the stress and complete the Assessment of Risk Record & Report (SC21). NB: Where an employee cannot be contacted, managers should complete the section Any other relevant information regarding the report of work related stress of the SC21 as soon as possible. Under no circumstances will a member of staff suffer victimisation as a result of reporting that they are suffering from stress. 3.6 SUPPORT MECHANISMS Where stress causes deterioration in job performance, this will be treated as a health problem and the sufferer will be encouraged to seek help under the terms of this policy. There will be no victimisation or discrimination against individuals suffering from stress. Employees suffering from stress and stress-related illnesses will be given the opportunity to attend stress-counselling sessions. Staff can make arrangements for counselling outside their working hours if they do not wish to draw attention to their need for counselling. In all cases an immediate appointment with the Senior Medical Adviser will be arranged. Names of counsellors and contact numbers can be obtained confidentially by contacting any of the following - Service Controls: telephone - (028) Service Welfare Officer: telephone - (028) FBU Helpline: telephone Counselling will be offered by independent and trained counsellors. This service will be strictly confidential between the counsellor and member of staff. No details or records will be disclosed without the written permission of the member of staff concerned. NB: The Service for auditing purposes will receive only anonymous statistical information from the Service Counsellors (Appendix B). Workplace Stress Policy & Procedure 8 of 12 POL-016 (v.1)

9 Other available confidential help is also available from The Fire Services National Benevolent Fund. All employees (uniformed and non-uniformed) may avail of the new Beneficiary Support Helpline, Telephone (Website: 3.7 DEVELOP A RETURN TO WORK STRATEGY The return to work strategy should be in line with the Human Resources Attendance Management Policy, and also take into account the results of the Assessment of Risks. The strategy may involve a phased return to work, building up to a full return to work. The strategy may also include temporary restrictions on particular duties, which have previously posed difficulties for the member of staff. At the return to work meeting both the Line Manager and the member of staff should formally agree that they understand the measures which are being put in place. It may be appropriate for a member of the Human Resources Department, including the Occupational Health Unit to attend this meeting. In addition, a trade union representative may accompany the member of staff at this meeting if they so wish. SECTION 4 - ASSOCIATED DOCUMENTS This Policy should be read in conjunction with: Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Policy on Critical Incidents, part of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Management Manual Volume 2. Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Policy on Problem Drinking, Alcoholism, and Drug Dependency, part of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Management Manual Volume 2. Service information booklet titled Welfare and Counselling Service. Brigade Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Bulletin No. 22/2001 Welfare and Counselling Services. Brigade Stress and Critical Incident Debrief Training Manual. Brigade Circular 63/1998, and the associated Fire Authority for Northern Ireland Harassment Policy. Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Attendance Management Policy SC21 Assessment of Risk Record & Report (Stress Related) Workplace Stress Policy & Procedure 9 of 12 POL-016 (v.1)

10 APPENDIX 'A' OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH, SAFETY & WELFARE ASSESSMENT OF RISK (STRESS-RELATED) When an employee: shows signs and symptoms of stress; gives notification of stress; is absent from work through sickness due to stress. then early contact should be made. The purpose of this initial contact should be to offer general support and communicate the organisation s concern. It should not be to discuss interventions and treatments. A counselling service is available to all personnel. This service is provided by the Service on a confidential basis. The cost of the service is met by the Service and names of individuals who avail of this facility are not disclosed by the counsellors. Names of counsellors and contact numbers can be obtained confidentially by contacting any of the following- Service Controls: telephone (028) Service Welfare Officer: telephone (028) FBU Helpline: telephone Personnel can get in touch directly with one of the counsellors. This is known as self-referral. Where a Line Manager receives notification that the employee s illness is attributed to stress, this must be brought to the attention of the Divisional Officer (Personnel and Training) at Area Command or the Divisional Officer (Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare) at Headquarters. The Divisional Officer will arrange for an immediate appointment with the Service Medical Advisor or inform the Line Manager to make an immediate appointment by completing SC216(a) and SC216(b). The Assessment of Risk Record & Report (SC21) can be used to assess the level of stress/risk. The completed record & report should be dated and signed by the assessor(s) and forwarded to Divisional Officer Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare. Note: It is not easy for staff to manage stress at work if their Manager does not do so. A stressed Manager has less time and patience to listen to staff and will not be good at planning and prioritising workloads. People learn by example. Workplace Stress Policy & Procedure 10 of 12 POL-016 (v.1)

11 APPENDIX B NORTHERN IRELAND FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE QUARTERLY COUNSELLING REFERRAL RETURNS To be completed by each Counsellor on a quarterly basis. Completed Returns should be forwarded to the Divisional Officer, Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare at Fire & Rescue Service Headquarters The information given on this form shall only be used to compile a statistical record of NIFRS stress-related ill-health, assisting the Occupational Health Unit, Human Resources Department to develop and improve Stress Management policies and procedures, (no names of individuals should be recorded). COMMAND DISTRICT QUARTER / YEAR PERSONNEL BREAKDOWN TOTAL NUMBER OF REFERRALS TOTAL NUMBER OF SESSIONS UNIFORMED OPERATIONAL UNIFORMED CONTROLS ADMIN/NON-UNIFORMED Workplace Stress Policy & Procedure 11 of 12 POL-016 (v.1)

12 BREAKDOWN OF REFERRAL FIGURES Work Issue ABUSE VIOLENCE ANGER ANXIETY DISCIPLINARY HARASSMENT INTIMIDATION JOB SECURITY RELATIONSHIPS AT WORK OTHER STRESS AT WORK Number of Referrals Personal Issue Number of Referrals ALCOHOL BEREAVEMENT DEPRESSION FAMILY FINANCE HEALTH RELATIONSHIPS OUTSIDE WORK TRAUMA OTHER STRESS OUTSIDE WORK COMMENTS IF REQUIRED (in relation to above) Workplace Stress Policy & Procedure 12 of 12 POL-016 (v.1)

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