Employer's question: how to effectively deal with stress related sickness in lockdown

13 Apr 2021

Q: We have increasing numbers of employees being signed off sick for ‘stress’ or ‘work-related stress’ whilst working from home during lockdown. What should we do?

The fear of the virus, home working, social distancing, furlough, home schooling and job uncertainty all make claims for stress more likely. 

While stress will not normally amount to an illness itself, it may result in or be a trigger for illness. The effects of stress may manifest themselves in both mental conditions and physical health problems which could amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010. By taking steps to manage stress and mental wellbeing at work, an employer may be able to avoid an employee developing an impairment or, where an employee has or develops an impairment, the employer can ensure it meets its legal obligations, for example, the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees.

Both the Health and Safety Executive and ACAS provide useful information for employers seeking to reduce or prevent stress in the workplace. Key points include: 
  • Promoting a culture of open communication where employees have ways to discuss stress, raise issues and seek help
  • Training managers to effectively identify the possible signs of stress, recognise the impact that stress may have on performance or behaviour and manage stress in their teams 
  • Monitoring workloads, working hours and overtime
  • Facilitating requests for flexible working
  • Providing support services such as occupational health, a mental health champion or an employee assistance programme
  • Completing a stress risk assessment (https://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/risk-assessment.htm) and acting on it (risk assessments should be reviewed periodically, particularly if an employee is showing signs of stress, or straightaway following a case of stress related ill health or if there are any significant changes in the workplace)
Employers should put in place measures to reduce or prevent stress, watch out for any signs of stress, take early action and meet its legal obligations, otherwise they could face claims of breach of contract, unfair dismissal (including constructive dismissal), disability discrimination, harassment and personal injury.

If you have similar issues in your business and would like further advice, please contact Emma Collins by email or by phone on 01293 558545.

Further reading

VAT and break options in commercial leases

In September 2020, HMRC updated its guidance on payments arising out of early contract termination, pending further review. Cheraine Williams comments on what we can expect to see in further promised guidance updates
Read more Read

HM Treasury confirms certain cryptoassets will be regulated by the Finance Promotion Regime

Blog, Legal Updates
The government has confirmed that the scope of the Financial Promotion Order 2005 will be expanded to bring certain cryptoassets within its remit. Read more about the proposed amendments.
Read more Read

Service charge demands – getting it right

Cheraine Williams details the importance of checking your lease and offers her advice to avoid painful Court applications
Read more Read

Net gain biodiversity consultation published by Government

Planning expert Daniel Frisby summarises the likely changes developers need to be aware of under the new regulations
Read more Read
  • Brighton Office

    1 Jubilee Street


    East Sussex

    BN1 1GE

  • Gatwick Office

    Griffin House

    135 High Street


    West Sussex

    RH10 1DQ

  • Guildford Office

    Wonersh House

    The Guildway

    Old Portsmouth Road



    GU3 1LR

  • Horsham Office

    Ridgeland House

    15 Carfax


    West Sussex

    RH12 1DY

  • London Office

    6 New Street Square

    New Fetter Lane


    EC4A 3BF

  • Get in touch