The final version of the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) standards for employers on managing stress is published this month.
The standards were due to be published on 3 November to coincide with the start of National Stress Awareness Day.
They are designed to set a benchmark against which employers can measure their employee stress levels, identify any ‘hot spots’ and work to resolve any issues.
The recommendations, which will not be legally binding, are that at least 85 per cent of workers should be satisfied they are able to cope with the demands of their jobs, have a say in what they do and get adequate support and information from their bosses and colleagues.
At least 60 per cent should feel they understand their roles and responsibilities, that they are not subject to unacceptable behaviour, and are engaged in any organisational change.
The standards are primarily being aimed at larger employers, but the HSE has said a tool for smaller and medium-sized employers is due to be published in the New Year.
While by and large welcomed by HR and OH professionals, the Work Foundation, for one, has expressed doubts about the HSE’s approach.
Director of research, Stephen Bevan, has argued it is “nonsensical” to believe you can accurately measure workplace stress in the same way as lead in the atmosphere or carbon emissions from exhausts.
He told Occupational Health: “The HSE is going ahead based on the assumption that there is a measurable ambient level of stress in a workplace. Stress is more about the individual than the workplace,” he said.
A lot of avoidable stress was down to poor job design and management, and there was sometimes a temptation to use the term as a catch-all for when workers were having trouble coping with the everyday strains of modern life, he added.