HUMAN RESOURCES STRESS POLICY

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1 HUMAN RESOURCES STRESS POLICY Rev Date Purpose of Issue/Description of Change Review Date 1. Sept 12 Update Review, will replace the existing policy Occupational Stress Management Policy 2003 Policy Officer Senior Responsible Approved By Date Officer Director of HR Director of HR Human Resources Task Group October 2012

2 CONTENTS 1. Introduction 3 2. Statement of commitment 3 3. Legal framework 3 4. Definitions 4 5. Aims and objectives 5 6. Responsibilities 6 7. Additional support information relevant to occupational stress 9 2

3 STRESS POLICY 1. Introduction Managing stress presents a challenge to all those concerned it can be difficult to identify and tackle, with an impact both on the stressed person and those around them, seriously affecting the quality of working lives and effectiveness in the workplace. It is therefore important to take prompt action to prevent, minimise and take action to manage stress. The University's stress policy outlines the standards set by the University for the prevention of work related stress and is supported by additional guidance for all staff dealing with stress at work. 2. Statement of commitment Bangor University is committed to providing a safe and healthy working environment for its staff and recognises the importance of fostering psychological as well as physical well-being. This commitment arises from the University's duty of care to all its staff, and more generally the recognition that a safe and healthy working environment contributes to the motivation, job satisfaction, performance, and creativity of all staff. Specifically the University is committed, so far as is reasonably practicable, to the promotion of health, to the prevention of work-related stress and to the provision of support to any member of staff who may suffer stress. 3. Legal framework There is no specific law on controlling stress at work, but broad health and safety and employment law applies: Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 employers have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees; Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations employers have a duty to assess the health and safety risks to which their employees are exposed at work. At the University, such an assessment should include an analysis of the risks to employees' health caused by stress at work. The Equality Act 2010 replaced all previous anti-discrimination law and consolidates it into one single act. The equality duty covers all the protected characteristics that are recognised within the Equality Act. These are: age; disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy and maternity; race, which incorporates ethnic or national origin, colour or nationality; religion and belief; sex; and sexual orientation. There are three general duties, which HEI s (as a public sector organisation) are required to have due regard to: o o o Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act 2010 Advance equality of opportunity between people from different equality groups. Foster good relations between people from different equality groups. 3

4 Ill health resulting from stress caused at work has to be treated in the same way as ill health due to physical causes in the workplace. This means that employers have a legal duty to take reasonable care to ensure that health is not put at risk through excessive and sustained levels of stress arising from the way work is organised, or from the day-to-day demands placed on their workforce. All staff have an individual responsibility to behave responsibly and to take reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves and other persons who may be affected by their work or activities and to co-operate with the University in its efforts to manage work-related stress. Case law has established that, unless the employer knows otherwise, it can be assumed that employees are mentally capable of withstanding reasonable pressure from work. Employers are not under a legal duty to prevent ill-health caused by stress due to problems outside work, eg financial or domestic worries. However, non-work pressures can make it difficult for staff to cope with work and, consequently, their performance at work might suffer. Therefore, being understanding to staff in this position is in the employer and employees' best interests. 4. Definitions The Health and Safety Executive defines stress at work as: the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed upon them This makes an important distinction between pressure, which can be a positive state if managed correctly, and insufficient or excessive pressure causing stress, which can be detrimental to health. Some level of stress is a normal aspect of everyday life. Harmful stress occurs when there is a prolonged imbalance between pressure and an individual s perceived ability to cope. Harmful stress, as thus defined, is damaging to the individual s health. Some of this damage may be temporary and reversible, but research has shown that severe and/ or prolonged stress can permanently damage the mind and the body, and leave it susceptible to other illnesses and diseases. It is important to remember that stress at work may result from people having too much work, or work that is too difficult, and that it can also be caused by people having too little work, or work that is too easy and repetitive. Pressure can also arise from an individual s personal life as well as from work and it is important to recognise that people vary in their ability to cope with different kinds of pressure. Some individuals will recognise that their health is affected and seek help; others will not recognise it or acknowledge that they are stressed although it may be apparent to their friends, work colleagues and their manager. The point at which workplace pressures become insufficient or excessive will, of course, vary with individual levels of tolerance and with levels of pressure in other areas of life at particular times. Stress may affect people in a variety of ways, and in serious cases may be a causative factor of a physical or psychological illness. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) exist to prevent illness or injury occurring as a result of the work that people undertake. For this reason the HSE has worked with experts in the field of stress 4

5 management and developed a framework that is intended to reduce the risk of work related stress from causing harm. The Bangor University stress at work policy is based on the HSE Stress Management Standards. The Stress Management Standards cover six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health and well-being, lower productivity and increased sickness absence. In other words, the six Management Standards cover the primary sources of stress at work. These are: Demands this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment. Control how much say the person has in the way they do their work. Support this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues. Relationships this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour. 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 or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation. Workplace stressors are the issues that contribute to the primary sources of stress at work. 5. Aims and objectives The University aims to minimise the risk of harmful stress through a risk management process involving the identification, assessment and implementation of control measures for workplace stressors. This risk management process aims towards: 5.1 Preventing harmful stress Take stress prevention measures such as: Creating a co-operative and supportive environment, through a culture of consultation, participation and open communications throughout the organisation Consulting with the Unions on proposed action relating to the prevention of workplace stress Ensuring good communications within teams Ensuring adequate preparation for new roles and responsibilities through risk assessment and training Raising staff awareness about stress, its causes and effects Providing advice and training to managers / supervisors to enable them to identify and assess tasks or structures which may carry high stress risks Developing a programme to promote good management and team building skills for those with management and supervisory responsibilities. Good management practices should address staff expectations that they will be: o Treated fairly 5

6 o Kept safe from physical threat, bullying, harassment or any form of unfair discrimination o Appropriately informed about matters which affect them o Part of an organisational framework which supports cooperation o Challenged by their work but not overwhelmed by it. Enabling staff to report excessive workloads, interpersonal pressures and symptoms of stress without fear of discrimination Supporting staff in recovering from stress-related illnesses and managing the return to work after any period of sick leave so that stress does not recur. Health and well-being promotion 5.2 Detecting and addressing harmful stress Undertake a University level stress risk assessment for performance against the HSE Stress Management Standards Seek to manage pressures which may affect employees by anticipating likely problems and taking actions to reduce the effects of them and any impact on colleagues. Pressures may be associated with such problems as, o Poor job design / lack of role clarity o Lack of control over workload o Working environment o Job insecurity o Poor workplace relationships o Unsupportive management culture o Lack of training or support o Not enough work o Overwork / excessive hours. To take reasonable action to combat and prevent workplace stressors identified through risk assessment, or those raised by members of staff To increase general awareness of stress and methods to prevent and combat harmful, excessive workplace stressors in various ways, including training and health promotion initiatives To advise and support staff in managing stress in themselves and /or others Provide guidance for managers and supervisors regarding the modification of work for employees who are stressed. For example reviewing work responsibilities and return to work arrangements after sickness absence Provide a range of stress management courses, for example: sessions on time management, assertiveness, dealing with difficult situations Identify internal and external sources of assistance for employees who may be susceptible or suffering from stress To manage problems that do occur and provide a confidential referral service To support the return to work of those who have been absent from work with stress related problems To respond where practicable to requests for flexible working arrangements. 6

7 5.3 Monitoring effectiveness To review risk assessments as appropriate To monitor, investigate and evaluate stress indicators, such as excessive sickness absence or high levels of harassment complaints 6. Responsibilities 6.1 University Executive authority is delegated to the Human Resource Task Group (in consultation with the Safety Executive Task Group and the Health and Safety Committee) to implement and monitor this policy on behalf of the Vice Chancellor. 6.2 College / Department level Heads of College / School / Department are responsible for: o Ensuring good communication of stress-related issues within their areas and for fostering a supportive environment in which workplace stress-related issues can be identified, discussed and addressed. o As far as is reasonably practicable, for implementing systems that should lead to signs of stress in individuals being identified and for ensuring that appropriate measures are taken to rectify the situation. They should: o Avail themselves of the opportunities available to become better informed about the subject, and how it can be managed. o Encourage line managers, supervisors, reviewers, research group leaders, and other individuals having management responsibilities within their department to understand the issues involved and where assistance can be sought. o Ensure appropriate return to work interviews are undertaken with staff after a stress-related absence. For some circumstances the line managers may not be the best persons to undertake the return to work interview and alternative arrangements should be agreed through Human Resources. Line managers should: o Understand the causes of and actions they can take to help reduce the risk of adverse work related stress reactions in their staff, and support the use of family friendly policies and practices to help people manage stress related to other factors that are not caused by work. Conduct appropriate assessments using the University stress assessment tools. These follow the HSE management standards, covering demands, control, support, relationships, role and change, and HSE guidance on risk assessment in general. o Implement actions arising out of assessments o Ensure staff understand and, if necessary, are trained to perform their roles and, as appropriate, encouraged to develop further o Encourage staff to take appropriate breaks and use their annual leave entitlement o Ensure that bullying and harassment is not tolerated o Ensure good communication especially where there are organisational or procedural changes 7

8 o Offer guidance where appropriate to any member of staff on University support available to help them cope with stressful circumstances outside the workplace o Where appropriate, work with the Occupational Health Practitioner, to undertake a work stress impact assessment and develop an action plan to control the future risk of stress at work o As part of the monitoring process, conduct return to work interviews with staff when they resume work after any period of sick leave and exit interviews with staff leaving the University Note: In fostering a supportive environment, managers can reasonably assume that employees are able to withstand the normal pressures of a job unless they are made aware of particular problems. 6.3 Members of staff All staff have an individual responsibility to behave responsibly and to take reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves and other persons who may be affected by their work or activities and to co-operate with the University in its efforts to manage work-related stress. Staff must co-operate with their managers to manage risks that may affect their physical and/or mental well-being, including attending any training provided and following guidance regarding work/stress related health risks Where an individual believes they are at significant risk of work-related stress, then they should inform their manager in confidence so that appropriate steps can be taken to provide support or intervention to reduce the risk. Other sources of support to which they can turn if they feel they cannot speak to their manager for any reason include the Occupational Health Practitioner, Human Resources, The Union representatives, Harassment Advisers, or the Confidential Staff Counselling service, as appropriate. Individual staff are also encouraged to look out for signs of stress in colleagues and to support them in addressing the problem. Individuals who are experiencing a stressful time in their lives are encouraged to let their manager know of the circumstances affecting the work they do, or speak in confidence with the Occupational Health Practitioner or Human Resources for guidance or support. Staff are reminded that they do have a legal obligation to report any illness or injury which they feel may be caused or exacerbated by work. This report may be made through their line managers or made in confidence to the Occupational Health Practitioner or Human Resources. Staff must recognise their own training and development needs Staff should be aware that a healthy lifestyle supported by an appropriate work life balance is an important contribution to a person's well-being 6.4 Human Resources Give guidance to managers on the stress policy Provide information to all staff on the causes and effects of stress Provide training to managers and staff on stress awareness, the risk assessment process and the application of appropriate control measures Provide assistance in managing individual cases of stress and advice on stress prevention Training and provision of harassment advisers Provide a confidential counselling service for members of staff 8

9 Monitor the success of the stress policy by providing and analysing sickness absence statistics and conducting staff surveys 6.6 Health and Safety Services Through the Occupational Health Practitioner: Provide a confidential consultation service with the aim of assessing, supporting or encouraging self -referral for specialist assistance, as appropriate Provide advice to managers on the need for any individual work adjustments Offer advice to access appropriate sources of counselling Highlight clusters of stress related health problems that are specific to a College / Department to Human Resources 6.7 The Human Resource Task Group Ensure that the stress policy is implemented Oversee monitoring of the efficacy of the policy 7. Additional support information relevant to work-related stress This statement of general policy is accompanied by specific guidance for those with managerial responsibilities and for individual members of staff. 9

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