Workplace Stress and How to Avoid it

In the last of our series on wellbeing, we are looking at stress, how HR can help managers and staff to avoid it, and what effect it can have on companies.

The number of working days lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2014/15 was 9.9 million, according to a Labour Force Survey.

That means that the condition affected 1,380 workers in every 100,000, with each person losing 23 days a year – that’s nearly a month of working days! Public services such as health, education, and public administration are particularly hard hit by these conditions. It is also more prevalent in larger organisations.

So what is causing this phenomenon?

According to the survey, the predominant cause was workload, including tight deadlines, too much work, pressure and responsibility.

Other factors included a lack of managerial support, organisational changes at work, lack of control, violence and role uncertainty, ie, the lack of clarity about the job and uncertainty over what an individual is meant to do.

What’s more, a study by the British Heart Foundation found that those affected by workplace stress also put their health at risk by smoking more, drinking more, eating the wrong foods and failing to exercise.

Most of the issues can be tackled within the workplace.

What you can do

When it comes to workload, deadlines and pressure, ensuring that staff are taking the holidays they are entitled to, and that staff absences are not putting pressure on those workers who are left to cover is vital. Proper holiday planning, detailed handovers, and monitoring of the number of days taken off are all vital. Monitoring may highlight patterns for instance of sickness absence, that a manager can then address.

It also means that if staff leave, or are absent for some time, proper cover should be provided, rather than relying on other members of staff to cover their own work as well as that of a missing colleague.

You also need to make sure that hours are in line with the Working Time Regulations – working no more than 48 hours a week on average – normally averaged over 17 weeks.  And those under 18 cannot work for more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. There are exceptions of course, in professions such as the armed forces, police and emergency services, security and surveillance.  Staff may opt out of the Working Time Regulations and you can find details on this at the Gov.uk website here.

The Working Time Regulations govern the hours most workers can work and set:

  •  limits on an average working week
  • statutory entitlement to paid leave for most workers
  • limits on the normal hours of night work and regular health assessments
  • special regulations for young workers.

As with so many things, prevention is most definitely better than cure. The company needs to have procedures in place so that issues are reported with confidence, and regular reviews between managers and staff can ensure that any problems are picked up early, so that measures can be put in place to prevent situations worsening.

You can also encourage managers to lead by example and by creating a far more pleasant workplace culture. They should encourage regular breaks, not expect long working hours, encourage lunch to be taken away from a desk, and also be open to flexible working, if it is viable in your industry.

There is a lot to take in here. You might like to refer back to our two previous blogs in the wellbeing series.

  •  Holidays are vital to a healthy workplace – click here
  • Fit and healthy staff make for a fit and healthy company – click here

But the overriding message is simple, look after your staff and it will pay dividends!

If you have issues with planning and managing holidays and absenteeism, do talk to us about HR software solutions. We recommend Staff Squared.

Equally, we are well placed to assist you in implementing a plan to address managing wellbeing in the workplace, including drawing up clear and relevant job descriptions, objectives setting and appraisals; all of which can help identify learning and development needs giving your teams more confidence to do the job effectively and efficiently.

We look forward to hearing from you. Email us or phone Cecily on 07767 308 717.

Embrace HR Limited, based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, helps SMEs who do not have their own HR departments, or those who need HR support from time to time.

Legislation and Payment Changes April 2016

As always, April sees a number of changes in financial matters and the big change for 2016 is the introduction of the National Living Wage – rates for many other payments, however, have been frozen. Here’s a snapshot of the current situation:

National Living Wage

The headline-grabbing change for this April is the introduction of the compulsory National Living Wage (NLW). From 6 April 2016, this mandatory payment will apply to all workers aged 25 and over.

Initially set at £7.20 an hour, it will run alongside the current National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates (see table – rates are likely to change again on 1 October 2016) and is expected to rise to more than £9 by 2020.

National Minimum Wage

The Government is also targeting employers who fail to pay the correct rates for NMW. An increase in the penalty for underpayment is also on the cards, under the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015. The fine of 100% of the underpayment owed to each worker will be doubled to 200% up to £20,000 per worker.

Statutory Rates

Generally, the rates of Statutory Pay increase in April in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI), however as this fell by 0.1% in the year to September 2015, the rates for 2016/2017 have been frozen. Employees must earn at least £112 a week to be entitled to these payments – this amount has also been frozen for 2016/17.

Compensation Payments

Laws that will see employer face financial penalties if they fail to pay tribunal awards or Acas settlement sums are expected to come into effect in April 2016. Employers will be forced to pay 50% of the unpaid award – maximum and minimum amounts will apply – and there will be reductions for prompt payment.

For help with your human resources requirements, issues and activities, please contact us for a no obligation discussion. Embrace HR, based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, helps SMEs who do not have their own HR departments, or those who need HR support from time to time.  Email us at cecily.lalloo@embracehr.co.uk or phone Cecily on 07767 308 717.

The National Minimum Wage 2014

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) increases on the 1st October 2014. Below are the current rates and the new rates that comes into force next week.

What

Prior to October 2014

per hour

From 1 October 2014

per hour

Workers aged 21 +

£6.31

£6.50

Development rate for workers aged 18-20

£5.03

£5.13

Young workers aged16-17

£3.72

£3.79

Apprentices under 19 or who are over 19 but in the first year of their apprenticeship

£2.68

£2.73

If you are a London employer – have you considered paying the London Living Wage? It is £8.80 at the present, and if your business is based anywhere in the rest of the country, the Living Wage is set at £7.65.

For help with HR, whether you are take on your first or your fiftieth employee, do contact us for a no obligation discussion. Embrace HR, based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, helps SMEs who do not have their own HR departments, or those who need HR support from time to time.

Time Off for Fathers and Partners for Antenatal Appointments

With effect from 1 October 2014, prospective fathers and partners now have the right to take unpaid leave to attend antenatal appointments. This unpaid time off from work can be taken by employees and qualifying agency workers if they meet one of the following criteria. The individual should be:

  • the baby’s father;
  • the expectant mother’s spouse, her civil partner, or partner (of either sex in an enduring relationship;
  • intended parents of a child in a surrogacy arrangement if they expect to be entitled to and intend to apply for a parental order in respect of that child.

There is no qualifying period for employees. This is a right from the first day that they are employed. However, to qualify, agency workers need to be doing the same kind of job for the same ‘hirer’ for at least 12 weeks. The maximum time per appointment is capped at 6 hours and 30 minutes but an employer may offer more time off.

If an employee or qualified agency worker is refused time off to accompany the expectant mother, they may make a complaint to the Employment Tribunal within 3 months. If the Tribunal upholds the complaint, compensation may be awarded. This would be calculated as twice the hourly rate of pay for each of the hours that the person would have taken off if the right had been respected.

Further information can be found in an employer guide by the Department of Business Innovation & Skills via this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/antenatal-appointments-time-off-to-accompany-a-pregnant-woman