FLEET executives are to get legal backing to ensure they are given the support to do their jobs properly.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced six 'pressure points' that will be measured to ensure employers are not putting staff under too much stress. The six main factors identified as contributing to workplace stress are: demands, control, support, relationships, roles and change. The employer will be assessed using these factors to see whether they have tried to keep stress within a manageable level.
If less than 65% to 85% of all workers within a business feel these factors have not been met then the employer will have failed the assessment and legal experts say they may face prosecution as a result.
The HSE acted following research showing about half-a-million people experience work-related stress at a level they believe was making them ill. Up to five million people in the UK feel 'very' or 'extremely' stressed by their work, and work-related stress costs society between £3.7 billion and £3.8 billion every year.
The scheme is already being piloted by some UK businesses, which will report their findings on whether the pressure point system works in November.
Bill Callaghan, chairman of the Health and Safety Commission, said: 'In developing a new approach it is important to get active participation, agreement and feedback from as many people as possible and that is why we have decided that innovative firms seeking an answer can have a go with this scheme.'
National law firm Laytons this week warned employers from both large and small businesses of the impact of the HSE's proposals.
Tim Randles, head of employment at the Guildford-based firm, said: 'It is being elevated to the status of a serious medical condition without making the necessary differentiation with anxiety and clinical depression.
'A one-size-fits-all approach is not what is required. To impose what amount to a subjective series of tests backed by the sanction of the criminal law will potentially end up a stick with which to beat employers and not the promised yardstick to measure good practice.'
HSE draft six-point test
Demands – at least 85% of employees indicate that they can cope with the demands of their job
Control – at least 85% of employees feel that they have a say over the work they do
Support – at least 85% of employees must feel that they have the information and back-up they need
Relationships – at least 65% of employees must say they are not subjected to unacceptable behaviour at work, eg bullying
Role – at least 65% of employees must understand their roles and responsibilities
Change – at least 65% of employees must feel they are involved in changes within the organisation