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Boss, I need to take Stress Leave!

This is not exactly something you want to hear, as an employer. But if an employee comes to you with a request for time off due to stress, it's usually a cry for help and an indication something is out of balance in their lives, either at work or in their personal circumstances.

However, when it becomes an issue in the workplace, it can be costly for your business, due to:

  • presenteeism, i.e. when a worker shows up to work while they are unwell or unable to perform their work productively; and/or
  • absenteeism, i.e. when a worker repeatedly misses work.
As an employer under Australia's WHS Act, you have a duty of care to provide a safe workplace for employees but you bear no real responsibility for their personal affairs. That said, in order to meet your health and safety duty in relation to "work-related" stress, you need to do what is reasonable to remove stress hazards that can foreseeably lead to an injury or illness to this particular employee (or others).

What to do first…

Communicating with the employee is your first priority here. If the employee is able to discuss the stressors in their life with you, you may be able to proactively assist them deal with the matter and maintain productivity. It may be that they are struggling with the work hours, they are feeling bullied by a colleague, or excessive noise in their work area – these are all "work-related" stressors that you have a duty of care to act on by applying reasonable remedies.

However, it is important to note that not all work-related stress will result in a breach of health and safety legislation - It is only the level or type of stress that results in a foreseeable injury.

We're all human after all…

We all live with stress, to some extent, and some stress is even 'good' stress. But remember, stress can affect different people in different ways. A myriad of personal factors can influence how stress affects each individual, including:

  • biological makeup, e.g. genetic predisposition towards depression or anxiety;
  • psychological profile, e.g. personality attributes such as self-confidence, attitude and mental resilience;
  • and social framework, e.g. social support networks and their ability to 'switch off' from the stress by engaging in other activities.
Communicate – take reasonable actions – monitor employee stress

!!! DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!!!


So, in summary, if you seek to authentically assist within your means, you may avoid a potentially costly WorkCover claim.

If you would like more information about strategies and resources for dealing with employee stress and leave matters, contact us at HR Tactics. www.hrtactics.com.au

Jackie is available to discuss these matters on 0406 146 116.