What to do about stress in your workplace

What can be done?

Individuals who believe they have been subjected to workplace stress and wish to seek a remedy should consult their trade union representative. If not a member of a trade union, individuals should seek legal advice.

The UK National Work-Stress Network does not provide detailed advice or individual casework support. The Network can give only very basic advice and cannot represent individuals. However several helplines are listed on this site which may be able to offer individuals assistance or counselling.

Trade Union members

If you are suffering from stress at work, including harassment or bullying, you should seek help at an early stage from your trade union.

It is important that you make notes of any incidents and keep all relevant correspondence or items that refer to your case. This is difficult but important. If you have any witnesses that may support your case this is also extremely useful.

You should firstly discuss the matter with a local representative or Branch Official. If you believe you need more expert help at any stage do not be afraid to contact your Union's Regional or Head Office.

You should discuss with your Trades Union representative or Safety Representative how to progress your case through internal Grievance Procedures. Do not attend any meetings alone - insist on having your Trades Union Representative or a 'Friend' with you. Procedures related to possible Employment Tribunal cases now require that a local grievance is taken first.

In time, you may wish to discuss getting appropriate legal advice from Union solicitors. If, once you have met the solicitor, you have further concerns which you believe have not been addressed, contact the appropriate Union Official to discuss these issues further. The Union will only pursue a grievance or take other action if you want it to. If you would like to discuss your problem confidentially with a union representative but wish it to go no further, then that option is available to you.

Additionally you may wish to consider counselling or advice either through your employer's occupational health service, harassment adviser, stress counsellor, welfare organisation, personnel officer or via external locally available facilities e.g. GP surgeries, health centres, Primary Care Trusts, information centres, libraries or Citizen's Advice Bureau. You can also contact the help lines listed in this publication. The availability of these services will depend on the size or type of employer and what is available locally.

You may also wish to consider:

  • counselling or advice either through your employer's occupational health or employee assistance service, harassment adviser, stress counsellor, welfare organisation, well-being at work projects, personnel officer
  • services provided through local facilities, e.g. the Primary Healthcare Trust, GP Surgery or health Centre;
  • information centres; libraries and Citizens Advice Bureau and the helplines listed in this publication or in your local directories.

The availability of such services will depend on the size or type of employer and what is available locally.

Trade Union Representatives

If you are a Trade Union Representative, you should be aware that the issues of harassment and bullying and work-related stress are complex cases. If a member approaches you with a problem of this nature you should consult a senior union official or where appropriate within the union's casework policies, seek legal advice. In some cases it may be better to refer the member to a Union Official with greater experience in dealing with these types of cases.

You may wish to discuss with the member whether they should seek advice either through the employer occupational health provisions, employee assistance programmes where they exist, harassment and discrimination adviser, stress counsellor, welfare organisation, or Personnel Officer (Human Resources Manager/Adviser). Alternatively you may recommend the use external facilities e.g. GP surgeries, health centre information centres, libraries and Citizens Advice Bureau. The availability of these services will depend on the size or type of employer and externally who is available to you locally.

Be prepared to have to spend considerable time with a person whose health and family life may be seriously damaged. Remember that you may not be able to help the member yourself, and if you feel that the case requires expert help, then you must refer them on to specialist services and to those who are 'expert' in dealing with stress cases.

Non union members

If you are not a member of a Trade Union you may wish to approach the appropriate Union to join. Almost certainly they will not be able to take on already existing casework, but will undoubtedly deal with your situation from the date of joining onwards. If you do not wish to pursue your case through that option, you may wish to seek legal advice independently.

The local Citizen's Advice Bureau will probably be able to give you some local contacts e.g. solicitors or law centres. Some 'no-win no-fee' legal companies will look at cases, but you should remember that proof of injury requires some very detailed evidence. You may also want to consider the other avenues available in the section above.


Next: Identify the Symptoms of Stress