Employers have a legal responsibility under the Disability Discrimination Act to make reasonable adjustments to jobs and the workplace for anyone suffering a mental illness due to work-related stress.
However, the research found that 49% of SME business owners and senior managers were unaware of this and did not know where they could turn for advice on how to support a staff member who reported suffering from work-related stress.
The study by business support organisation Business Link found that 27% of business owners and senior managers had had an employee report work-related stress.
It outlines ways in which organisations can help and support employees who report suffering from stress.
Popular ways to manage work-related stress reported in the research were:
- Open door management policy (34%);
- Encouraging flexible working practices (31%);
- Regular appraisals and workload reviews (26%);
- Encouraging sport, exercise or healthy eating (19%).
Only 22% of employers in the county had a company policy for dealing with stress, even though this was an effective way to contribute to the company’s legal obligation to manage work-related stress under the Disability Discrimination Act. Business Link has practical tools and advisers on hand to help business owners and managers to identify and tackle stress in their company.
Those businesses owned or led by female managers were more likely to have employees who admitted work-related stress or have members of their senior management reporting stress, compared with male majority-owned businesses.
Deborah Wharton, of Business Link, said: “Stress often surfaces at times of change such as the current economic downturn.
"This report shows that work-related stress is a significant factor for business owners and their employees. It clearly affects productivity and quality of life, whether it is acknowledged openly, hidden or latent.”