STRESS in the workplace is likely to soar among survivors of mass redundancy programmes, fuelling costly absences and tribunals, experts have warned.
Employment law consultants EmployEase said factors including unmanageable workloads, increased bullying and ‘survivor guilt’ are proving prime causes of stress in post-recession workplaces.
EmployEase, which revealed one in three of its individual clients are off sick with stress-related illness, warns businesses must act to prevent rising stress if they want to avoid a potential avalanche of absent workers and litigation costs.
Begins a spokesperson: “The company is warning businesses to beware stress and its symptoms – including tribunals for constructive or unfair dismissal, discrimination and personal injury.
“EmployEase, which represents both businesses and individual clients, said tackling the causes of stress in the workplace at the root are of particular priority in companies which have recently undergone a redundancy programme.”
Amanda Galashan, director at EmployEase, said: “We are experiencing a rising number of clients calling us from their sick beds to raise a complaint about stress or related symptoms.
“The rising number of skeleton workforces dealing with excess workloads is having the effect of producing overwhelmed employees, complaints about bullying and there is definitely an issue with survivors guilts.
“Workers who have ‘survived’ a jobs cull may feel guilty or lucky to have a job at all, so they accept additional workloads and pressures without complaint initially.
“However, as the demands grow and the sense of being overstretched and undervalued in an environment where promotion or progression seems a long way off, stress can reach boiling point.
“It can seem as though survivors of redundancy sometimes get the raw deal, so it is crucial management is aware of the pitfalls and potential fallout of a stressed, skeleton staff.”
EmployEase points to stress-related illnesses such as depression and anxiety as common in tribunal cases, and, once an employee is diagnosed, then employers may be subject to disability discriminations laws.
The issue of stress and recession has also given rise to complaints about workplace bullying.
Amanda added: “Disciplinary hearings can rise in pressurised times and workloads among ‘redundancy survivors’ soar, so stress is a given.
“While stress proves damaging to individuals and their careers, it is also a major headache for employers who face coping with reduced workforces due to stress and the legal quagmire of sick pay, sick leave and potential unfair dismissal.
“Ironically, stress and related sicknesses will perpetuate the situation, worsening matters for both businesses and individual employees.”
EmployEase has offered guidelines for businesses seeking to minimise workplace stress following cutbacks.
Top suggestions include recruiting wisely, making use of probationary periods, cautious promotion to management to ensure leaders are not stress-prone or potential bullies, and a reviewed sickness pay policy.
Training and coaching of staff and managers is also cited as essential for good morale and coping levels.
Amanda said: “Training and coaching is not a nice add on that should be shelved as a cost cutting exercise – it makes a major difference and reduces the likelihood of stress.
“Funded government schemes are available and small businesses should use them.
For further information visit the EmployEase blog at www.employease.wordpress.com
To find out more about the company visit www.employease.co.uk
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