HSE to publish work-related stress investigations criteria

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The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) is set to publish the criteria required for it to begin an investigation into claims of work-related stress.

The body said it was redefining its operational guidance to establish a consistent approach to handling complaints of stress at work.

Within the next few weeks it will publish clarified criteria for it to begin such investigations at an organisation where work-related stress is the primary concern for staff. This, it said, was because many of the concerns raised to the regulator were outside of its remit and “more relevant” to other regulators.

A spokesperson said: “As work-related stress is responsible for more than half the working days lost to ill health, the number of concerns from workers raised with us is also on the increase.

“The intention is to signpost notifiers to the correct authority via website guidance before they submit the concern.

“There has been no change our overall policy that [we] will consider complaints of work-related stress and will, where there is sufficient evidence, consider taking action.”

According to the Labour Force Survey, 595,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18, while 15.4 million working days were lost to these conditions. The conditions were more prevalent in the education, health and social work and public administration and defence sectors.

Emily Pearson, founder of corporate mental health consultancy Our Minds Work, said: “The HSE is toughening its stance towards firms and how they address the issues of work-related stress and other workplace mental health problems is a necessary and significant step.

“The shocking impact to employee health should be a big red flag to responsible organisations, prompting them to take action to prevent such a serious health hazard. But in 2019 there has been minimal effort to tackle the problem, leaving hundreds of thousands of employees unwell because of poor mental health.”

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