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November 3, 2005

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South Downs Branch- Stress mess

Workplace stress is not being understood by line managers, with a large majority receiving no training in identifying warning signs, and nearly half not clear on the law.

Rebecca Thornley Gibson, head of employment for ASB Law, told members of the South Downs Branch that a survey her firm had carried out into the views of 1400 HR managers had revealed that:

* 80 per cent had not undertaken stress audits, despite HSE guidelines;

* 56 per cent did not have a specific strategy for managing workplace stress;

* more than 80 per cent of line managers have no training to identify warning signs;

* 60 per cent do not monitor stress-related absence; and

* just under half are totally unaware or unsure of the legal obligations.

The survey revealed a fundamental knowledge gap between HR and line management, which, Rebecca said, could be due to confusion about where responsibility for monitoring stress lies — with HR or health and safety?

“Training for line managers has to be addressed,” Rebecca commented, “but from my experience companies are holding back because they’re worried about opening up a can of worms.”

She added that employers fear stress-related investigations may exacerbate problems and lead to questions being asked about line managers’ competence.

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