Court ruling puts an end to psychic management

Stress has been a nightmare for employers. The number of stress claims made
by employees has spiralled, with new TUC research suggesting there has been a
12-fold increase. The six-figure payouts attached to many successful claims
have made it a very painful phenomenon.

Until now, the onus has been on the employer to ascertain whether employees
are stressed. But there have been serious difficulties – how do you spot
stress? After all, one person’s stress might be another person’s motivation.

Many in HR will be breathing a sigh of relief after the Court of Appeal
ruling last week that overturned three damages awards in work-related stress
claims. It has set out guidelines that could reverse this growing trend.

The ruling means employers no longer have to be psychic. Employees will need
to raise their concerns regarding stress with employers and give them a chance
to do something about it. If staff do not give the employer this opportunity
they will find it hard to prove a breach of care.

From now on, employers can assume that the employee can withstand the normal
pressures of a job.

These guidelines will go a long way in helping HR identify staff who are
genuinely suffering from stress and those jumping on the compensation
bandwagon.

But there is still a lot of work to be done, with another piece of new
research claiming that nine out of 10 staff are suffering a degree of
work-related stress.

HR has to ensure procedures are in place to tackle stress, including
effective communication and counselling services. Staff have to feel confident
they can approach HR or their line manager about stress without it affecting
their standing. And line managers must not be allowed to avoid good and
sensitive management by hiding behind the excuse that staff did not tell them
they had a problem.

By Mike Broad

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