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You are here: Home Topics Psychosocial risks and stress Advice for employers

Advice for employers

Employers have an obligation to manage work-related stress, through the Framework Directive 89/391/EEC, which deals with health and safety in the EU. This Directive and the legislation it needs at Member State level, place work-related stress firmly within the legal domain of occupational safety and health. They set the strong expectation that it is approached in the same logical and systematic way as other health and safety issues by applying the risk management model, with special emphasis on preventive action.

The ‘Framework agreement on work-related stress’ and ‘Framework agreement on harassment and violence at work’ also provide guidance to employers in the EU in dealing with workplace stress. And Member States have produced their own practical guidelines and preventive tools on stress, violence and other psychosocial risks.

Work-related stress is preventable, and action to reduce it can be very cost-effective. Each workplace is different, and work practices and solutions to problems must be matched to particular situations by carrying out a risk assessment. Nevertheless, psychosocial risks are rarely unique, and similar solutions can be adopted across various sectors and sizes of enterprises, and Member States. Examples of good practice in managing workplace stress are there to be used.

Risk assessment for stress involves the same basic principles and processes as for other workplace hazards – identifying hazards, deciding what action needs to be taken, communicating the results of the assessment, and reviewing it at appropriate intervals. Including workers and their representatives in the process is crucial to success.

Factors to look out for in relation to stress include:

  • excessive workload or exposure to physical hazards;
  • how much control workers have in the way they carry out their work;
  • whether workers understand their roles;
  • relationships – covering issues like harassment and violence,
  • what support there is from colleagues and managers, and
  • what training workers need to perform their task.

‘Stress management’ has tended to target individuals rather than organisations. But the key to preventing work-related stress and psychosocial risks lies with the organisation and management of work. Preventing the consequences of work-related stress is better than reacting to them once they have occurred.

Effective measures in preventing work-related stress include:

  • allowing enough time for workers to perform their tasks;
  • providing clear job descriptions;
  • rewarding workers for good performance;
  • enabling workers to make complaints and have them taken seriously;
  • giving workers control over their work;
  • minimising physical risks;
  • allowing workers to take part in decisions that affect them;
  • match workloads to the capabilities and resources of each worker;
  • designing tasks to be stimulating;
  • defining work roles and responsibilities clearly;
  • providing opportunities for social interaction, and
  • avoiding ambiguity in matters of job security and career development.