By Richard Yeomans, employment practice, Manches Solicitors
Q Why has the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) published a new pilot project on stress management?
A The HSE estimates that up to 13.4 million working days are lost each year as a result of stress at work, and that this affects up to one in five workers at a cost of up to £3.8bn to UK businesses. These figures prompted the Government (via the HSE) to introduce a pilot project called Management Standards for Stress.
The HSE is inviting employers to try the project and return any feedback by November. It will then decide whether and how to launch the standards formally next year. For example, they may form part of a code of practice which will be taken into account when deciding whether an employer has breached health and safety legislation.
Q What are the standards?
A The HSE has set out six management standards aimed at reducing workplace stress. They include:
1 Ensuring staff can cope with job demands
2 Giving staff adequate control over their work
3 Ensuring staff are given support by colleagues
3 Combating unacceptable behaviour, such as bullying
5 Ensuring staff understand their role and responsibilities; and
6 Involving staff in organisational change.
The management standards provide a yardstick against which employers can gauge their performance in the workplace. If fewer than 85 per cent (for 1 to 3 above) and 65 per cent (for 4 to 6 above) of staff agree the management standards have been met, your organisation will fail the assessment.
Q Who do the standards apply to?
A The standards do not currently have the force of law and will not be formally launched until next year. For the time being, they are only part of a pilot project, and there is no obligation for you to participate in it.
Q How do I include my company in the pilot project?
A You should refer to the HSE website (www.hse.gov.uk), which sets out a step-by-step approach to carrying out a pilot study within your organisation.
Q Should I be concerned about complying with the standards?
A Although the management standards are still at the pilot project stage, this does not mean you should ignore them or the issue of workplace stress.
Your organisation is already req