Referral for Stress Risk Assessments
1. Key Features
Individual stress risk assessments identify and assess workplace risks to your employee’s mental health and provide you with practical recommendations for controlling those risks.
Thorough stress risk assessments conducted with your employee by qualified and experienced Occupational Health Specialist Practitioners.
Your employee’s stressors are assessed for their severity (temporary or lasting) using clinically validated guidelines.
The assessment report is carefully designed and structured to maintain balance and objectivity and judiciously written with a sense of proportion.
As well as benefiting your employee, recommendations can also be input into a review of relevant HR policies, and adequacy of employee support.
2. Step by Step Guide
Click on a step below to view more detail.
You might refer your employee for an individual stress risk assessment:
- As soon as you identify signs of negative work related stress or become aware that your employee has a health condition which elevates their stress risk.
- When your employee is scheduled to return to work from sickness absence due to a stress related condition.
Obvious signs of negative work related stress include:
- Your employee has raised a concern with you about work related stress (e.g., during a return to work meeting).
- You have a fit note advising that your employee is unfit for work with descriptions such as; stress related symptoms, anxiety disorder or work related stress.
- An occupational health assessment reports that your employee’s health and / or performance is being adversely affected by a range of work related stressors and recommends an individual stress risk assessment because;
- there was insufficient time during the occupational health assessment to adequately assess them all and;
- describing these stressors in the occupational health assessment report might appear overly critical of the organisation but describing them in a stress risk assessment report designed and structured specifically for this purpose will appear more balanced and objective whilst also having permission to appear critical, because it is the reason why the stress risk assessment was commissioned.
Less obvious signs, which you are reasonably expected to know about, might include an employee increasingly:
- Struggling to meet certain performance expectations such as; networking, speaking up in meetings, delivering presentations, managing customer or client relationships, adapting to or leading change, etc.
- Showing signs of low mood or agitation.
- Finding it difficult to communicate issues to you in an objective, deliberate and dispassionate way.
Why refer to Work Wellness?
- Work Wellness stress risk assessments are conducted by qualified and experienced Occupational Health Specialist Practitioners who:
- Are more likely to identify workplace stressors:
- Their independence helps overcome employee concerns about confidentiality.
- Their experience of establishing trust and rapport, creates a “safe space” which encourages open and honest disclosure.
- Can help maintain objectivity:
- They have wide experience of “what good looks like” across many organisations so they can maintain a sense of proportion.
- They are well versed in de-personalising sensitive and charged situations, employees are often thankful of the way in which we positively moderate their description of issues.
- Are more likely to identify workplace stressors:
- Employing a credible third party is likely to increase commitment to the process and the likelihood that the resultant assessment is scrutinised and actioned.
Follow the flow chart below to decide how to request an individual stress risk assessment. Basically:
- If any health information is likely to be declared or processed (which is likely if your employee has a long-term health condition) then request the assessment using the; occupational health assessment referral and employee consent forms.
- If you are confident that no health information is likely to be declared or processed then request the assessment using the much simpler work risk assessment referral form.
You complete the referral form, obtain your employee’s consent and email the form(s) back to us.
Returning the referral form in good time is crucial to the quality of the assessment:
The referral form must be returned to Work Wellness at least 5 working days prior to the stress risk assessment appointment to allow sufficient time to:
- Arrange the calendar appointment with your employee.
- Research and prepare for the stress risk assessment.
A stress risk assessment will normally:
- Be conducted remotely via video conference.
- Last for 60 minutes but we allow 90 minutes in our calendar in case we need to provide additional re-assurance and support for vulnerable / distressed employees.
We can arrange the stress risk assessment appointment directly with your employee. We will provide them with candidate calendar slots, agree the slot most convenient to them, issue a calendar invite for the agreed slot and receive your employee’s acceptance of the invite.
Alternatively, you may choose to arrange the stress risk assessment appointment between Work Wellness and your employee, in which case we will typically offer you up to 3 candidate appointment slots to agree with your employee. You may choose this option:
- In order to retain overall control over the process (e.g., to minimise the risk of ’employee did not attend’).
- For the first one or two referrals until you are comfortable with the process.
We will prepare in advance of the Stress Risk Assessment by;
- Reading through the information you have provided on the referral form, such as the circumstances and reasons for requesting the stress risk assessment.
- Preparing a starting set of questions to explore with your employee in order to elicit the information required by the stress risk assessment.
In the assessment consultation itself, our practitioner will:
1. Identify the risks (stressors at work)
Our practitioner helps your employee to identify specific work related stressors by guiding them through 7 sources of workplace stress. This structure has evolved out of:
- Several hundred individual employee mental health assessments.
- Over 20 years of conducting occupational health assessments and individual stress risk assessments.
- Over 20 years of managing talented, neurodiverse teams.
1. Company. “Where I work”
Culture. Objectives. Working environment. Change. Communications
2. Job. “What I do”
Job description. Job content. Workload. Work patterns. Reporting lines. Control. Safety.
3. Resources. “The tools I use”
Processes and systems. Workstation / equipment.
4. Manager / other seniors. “Who I work for”
Duty of Care. Performance Management. Leadership
5. Peers / subordinates. “Who I work with”
Performance. Relationships. Upwards bullying.
6. Career. “My future”
My company’s future. My future.
7. Remote / Homeworking
Isolation. Lack / loss of support. Distractions. Declining health.
We recognise that this structure differs from the “Management Standards” recommended by the HSE but we’ve evolved this structure because it helps to:
- Structure the conversation without spoiling the natural flow of the conversation and the spontaneity of responses.
- Match each stressor to appropriate actions (turning a problem into a solution).
It’s not a problem if your employee describes a stressor which doesn’t naturally fit into the structure, as we describe the stressors anyway, we don’t just tick a series of boxes.
2. Evaluate the significance of stressors
Our practitioner uses their experience of clinical tools for assessing the severity of stressors in a primary care environment to rate the severity of each stressor described by your employee as follows:
The source has had no adverse effect on your mood, sleep, peace of mind, etc.,
The source has had an adverse effect on your mood, sleep, peace of mind, etc., and:
The source has contributed to your anxiety / depression, i.e.,
During this step our practitioner also offers guidance to your employee about how they might best discuss the assessment with you. Where necessary our practitioner might need to; explain why the discussion is needed, provide encouragement and offer hints and tips for how to approach and input into the discussion.
After the assessment you will receive a report containing an assessment of possible stressors, which ones are temporary or lasting, and recommendations for reducing or mitigating them.
The report structure gives you space to document:
- Additional actions generated during your conversation with your employee.
- The reason why a recommended action has not been agreed and implemented.
- How an action is to be implemented (who, when, how, etc)
There should be no need to transpose parts of our report into another document (unless that’s something you want to do).
The report will more than likely contain sensitive information so we follow General Medical Council guidelines to ensure confidentiality. Further details of these guidelines can be found on the Occupational Health Standards page in the section entitled “Data Protection, Confidentiality and Consent”.
The report should be a valuable source of information to help you decide how to manage your employee, their performance and the risks to their health and safety. It might form the basis of an action plan agreed between yourself and your employee. See the Occupational Health Standards page for advice on “How to Use Your Occupational Health Assessment Report”.
After following the action plan, work related stressors should have been controlled to levels which become tolerable for your employee, over a relatively short period of time; days, weeks, maybe up to a month or two. However, if it becomes apparent that the action plan will not achieve this then more fundamental adjustments might be required including a change to the employee’s job or a referral to appropriate specialists to diagnose and prescribe treatment to help your employee cope.
You might also use the findings and recommendations in the stress risk assessment report to input into a review of your organisation’s policies, processes and support. You will need to anonymise the report and redact all confidential health information prior to doing so.
3. Step by Step Average Timeline
4. Why Invest
Conducting an organisational level risk assessment can be like looking at your organisation through a telescope.
- It will probably have been conducted at a distance, taking inputs from desk research, meetings and workshops and then ‘moderated’ for what is culturally and politically acceptable.
- It can be a public process which discourages affected individuals from inputting their own specific stressors, especially when these stressors are widely accepted as the organisational norm. So stressors are more likely to be identified which have low severity impacts and which impact the ‘typical’ employee.
- It may do little to assess the severity of impact of specific stressors and therefore fails to adequately control the degree of risk.
After implementing controls identified by an organisational level stress risk assessment, you may still have individual employees showing signs of work related stress.
- It is a private and intimate process where an affected employee is afforded a ‘safe space’ to describe work related stressors and the severity of impact of those stressors which are personal to them.
- It is often the case that the stressors being experienced by a particular employee are representative of a larger employee segment defined by similar; physical health or mental health conditions which increase their sensitivity to workplace stressors and who ‘might not be heard’ at an organisational level. There are likely to be several such segments which, in combination, can make up a small but significant proportion of your workforce. For example;
- The 4% of UK employees with menopause symptoms such as brain fog and forgetfulness, the 4% with ADHD and the 8% with dyslexia symptoms, may feel negative stress because the organisational norm is not to transcribe meeting notes which they can refer to afterwards.
- The 2% with a degree of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) who may feel negative stress because the organisational norm is for flexible delegation and management of outputs which they might perceive as task requirements which are ambiguous and inadequately thought through.
- Individual stress risk assessments can provide valuable inputs into a review of your organisation’s HR policies aimed at minimising the negative effects of work related stress and the adequacy of the support you have available to employees struggling with negative stress.
Protect. The cost of getting it wrong:
A 2018 survey of 100 UK organisations, 15,500 managers and 44,000 employees found1:
- 48% had experienced poor mental health such as; stress, low mood and anxiety, while working at their current organisation but 52% chose not to tell their manager.
- 55% felt their manager would not be able to spot if they were having problems with their mental health.
A 2017 survey of 576 UK media industry employees found2:
- 60% say work has had a negative impact on their wellbeing over the past 12 months.
- 46% say they wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to their line manager if work was having a negative impact on their mental health.
A 2013 survey of 2,060 employees in England and Wales found3:
- 19% had taken sickness absence due to work related stress but that …
- 90% did not disclose stress as the reason.
Work Wellness can help you identify a significant proportion of your employees likely to be experiencing work related stress who have not told you about it and you have been unable to identify it.