Stress in the Workplace


Stress at work is increasingly becoming the major cause of occupational ill health and mental health conditions. 20 per cent of people suffer from mental illness in their lifetimes.

Work place stress is a serious health and safety concern that can lead to mental health illness but it is preventable.

Health and Safety at Work etc Act l974

Employers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of all employees at work. This includes protecting them from the harmful effects of stress. So if employers fail to carry out their duties they may be liable not only for breach of contract, but also criminal prosecution. Employees also have duty to work safely.

The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations l977

These require employers to consult with union safety representatives on all matters relating to health and safety at work including stress. This should include consulting and discussing with workers on formulating policies on preventing stress at work.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations l999

These impose a number of duties on employers, including a duty to carry out risk assessments relating to stress, prevent injury and ill-health and duties to provide training and information – and involve safety reps in risk assessments.

Health and Safety Executive Stress Management Standards

The HSE designed this approach to help employers manage the causes of work-related stress and is based on the risk assessment model. The management standards approach requires managers, employees and their representatives to work together to improve certain areas of work, to have a positive effect on employee well-being.

Discrimination and Mental Health

People with mental ill health are faced with discrimination at work and in society. Disabled workers with mental ill health are more likely to face barriers in recruitment and retention. People who are using mental health services or have used these services in the past are often discriminated against in the workplace

Equality Act 2010

The Definition of disability includes mental impairment such as long-term depression “a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

The Equality Act 2010 outlaws disability discrimination where:

• A disabled person is treated less favourably because of their disability.

• No reasonable adjustment is made for a disabled person

• No justification can be made (where it is allowed)

• At all stages of the employment relationship

• All disabled workers are covered from day one

• Protection from discrimination or harassment because they are perceived to have a disability

• This covers workers who are linked or associated with a disabled person eg a carer of a disabled child or adult.

Members who suffer mental illness should not be discriminated against on the grounds of disability. 
Whilst some employees end up being ill or having to leave or take time off, many others continue to work under increasing levels of stress, but can also testify the impact that this has had on their personal health, their family, the quality of their work, their organisation, and their morale. 

What can reps do?

Please click on the links below to find out what you can do to support women affected by stress and mental health issues in the workplace

Women’s Health and Safety at Work Toolkit

Educate Agitate Organise Blog

Educate Agitate Organise: the STUC Blog

Educate Agitate Organise: the STUC blog


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