Stress at work risk assessment

Companies are required by U.K. law to complete a stress risk assessment, which we provide a template for below.

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Get our editable Stress at Work Risk Assessment Template

(We'll email you a Google Docs version of the questionnaire, and sign you up to the Spill newsletter too β€” but you can unsubscribe if that's not your thing.)

The Health and Safety Executive, the U.K. government agency responsible for the regulation of workplace health and safety, defines stress as β€œthe adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them”.

What's notable about the definition is that stress is a reaction to pressure, rather than just pressure itself. Pressure, in the right amount and managed correctly, can be great for both boosting performance and making work more fulfilling.

Stress at work can therefore be reduced in two ways: (a) by the employer reducing excessive pressure on employees, and (b) by providing tools and resources for employees to change their reaction to pressure (in other words, to boost their resilience).

But first, let's start with what the law says about stress at work.
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An employer's legal requirements regarding stress at work

Beyond avoiding discrimination against those with a disability, protecting employees against undue stress is the other area of mental health employer law.

The law's tangible requirement for employers is to carry out a stress risk assessment and take action based on it.

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You only need to do one stress assessment document for the whole company, not one for each employee.

Your stress risk assessment document should include the following, according to HSE:

  • What the primary stress hazards might be. These could include: periods of high workload at certain times (like before Christmas or the end of the financial year), job insecurity, company financial instability (not enough runway), unclear roles, etc.
  • Who is most likely to be affected. Perhaps junior employees suddenly have to take on more responsibility, perhaps customer-facing teams are bracing for responses to a batch of faulty orders, perhaps first-time managers are under-prepared.
  • What you're already doing to control the risks. This could take the form of monitoring overtime and breaks, one-to-ones with managers, or making sure you have enough resource.
  • What further (reasonable) action you need to control the risks. This might include securing budget to hire freelancers for upcoming busy periods, cascading more information on company funding updates, or clarifying roles and responsibilities.
  • Who is responsible for each action, and when it needs to be done by. Accountability is key!

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Let's dive into a bit more detail on what some common stress hazards might look like.


Common stress hazards to look for in the assessment

The six HSE 'management standards' are the areas of work that, if not up to scratch, are the primary causes of stress at work.

They are:

  1. Demands β€” this includes things like workload, work patterns and the working environment.
  2. Control β€” how much say the person has in the way they do their work.
  3. Support β€” the encouragement, recognition, training and resources provided by the company, manager and colleagues.
  4. Relationships β€” this includes promoting positive working relationships and dealing with unacceptable behaviour.
  5. Role β€” whether people understand their role clearly, and whether the company ensures that there aren't conflicting or unnecessary roles.
  6. Change β€” how change (large or small, and external or internal) is managed and communicated by senior people in the business as well as managers.


A risk assessment template for stress at work

We've modified HSE's general office risk assessment form into a template for a stress-specific risk assessment form that contains more prompts and detail around stress hazards, to make it easier to fill out.
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Get a copy of this Stress Risk Assessment as a Google doc here
that you can duplicate and edit

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To help make sure you're getting an accurate read on the stress hazards you could speak to various managers, or if you'd like to be more thorough you can send out this HSE questionnaire (PDF) (the 'stress indicator tool') to everyone in the company, and use this score card (.xls) to interpret the results so you can use them in the stress risk assessment.
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A snapshot of some of the questions asked in HSE's stress indicator questionnaire tool, that you can ask employees to fill out to get a clearer read on potential stress hazards in your company

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When it comes to the legal requirements of protecting employees against undue stress, here's what you are (and aren't) required to do:

βœ… Β Fill out and action a stress risk assessment form and take reasonable action

❌. Take unreasonable steps to reduce stress hazards for employees


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Get our editable Stress at Work Risk Assessment Template

(We'll email you a Google Docs version of the questionnaire, and sign you up to the Spill newsletter too β€” but you can unsubscribe if that's not your thing.)

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