Work-related stress is a growing concern for employees and employers alike. It can lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and even long-term health problems. As an employer, it is crucial to recognise the signs of work-related stress and take appropriate steps to support your employees. In this article, we will explore how to handle an employee who is off work due to work-related stress, focusing on best practices and legal obligations.

Understanding Work-Related Stress

Defining Work-Related Stress

Work-related stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or demands placed on them at work. It can be caused by various factors, such as heavy workloads, tight deadlines, lack of control over work, poor relationships with colleagues or managers, and lack of support. When an employee experiences prolonged or intense stress, it can lead to physical and mental health problems, ultimately affecting their ability to perform their job effectively.

Legal Obligations for Employers

In the UK, employers have a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees. This includes assessing and managing the risk of work-related stress. Employers must also adhere to the Equality Act 2010, which prohibits discrimination against employees with mental health conditions, including those related to work-related stress.

Supporting an Employee Off with Work-Related Stress

Maintaining Communication

When an employee is off work due to stress, it is essential to maintain regular, supportive communication. This may involve:

  • Arranging a meeting or phone call to discuss their wellbeing and any support they may need
  • Keeping them updated on any changes or developments at work
  • Reassuring them that their job is secure and that the organisation supports their recovery
  • Providing information on available support services, such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) or counselling

Referral to Occupational Health

Referring an employee to an occupational health provider, such as London City Healthcare, can be a valuable step in supporting their recovery and return to work. Occupational health professionals can:

  • Assess the employee’s health and wellbeing
  • Provide advice on managing work-related stress and supporting mental health
  • Recommend adjustments or accommodations to help the employee return to work safely
  • Liaise with the employee’s GP or other healthcare providers to ensure a coordinated approach to their care

Developing a Return to Work Plan

When an employee is ready to return to work, it is important to develop a structured and supportive plan. This may involve:

  • Conducting a return to work interview to discuss any concerns or adjustments needed
  • Implementing a phased return, allowing the employee to gradually increase their working hours or responsibilities
  • Making reasonable adjustments to their work environment, tasks, or schedule to reduce stress
  • Providing ongoing support and regular check-ins to monitor their wellbeing and address any issues

Preventing Work-Related Stress

Risk Assessment and Management

To prevent work-related stress, employers should conduct regular risk assessments to identify potential stressors in the workplace. This may involve:

  • Reviewing workloads, deadlines, and resources to ensure they are manageable and realistic
  • Assessing the physical work environment, such as noise levels, temperature, and ergonomics
  • Evaluating organisational policies and practices, such as communication channels and decision-making processes
  • Implementing control measures to reduce or eliminate identified risks, such as providing training, resources, or support

Promoting a Supportive Work Culture

Creating a supportive and inclusive work culture is essential for preventing work-related stress. Employers can promote a positive work environment by:

  • Encouraging open communication and feedback between managers and employees
  • Providing training for managers on recognising and addressing signs of stress in their teams
  • Offering flexible working arrangements, such as remote working or flexible hours, to promote work-life balance
  • Implementing employee wellbeing initiatives, such as stress management workshops or mental health awareness campaigns
  • Fostering a culture of respect, inclusion, and collaboration among colleagues

The Role of Occupational Health

Occupational health providers, such as London City Healthcare, play a crucial role in supporting employers and employees in managing work-related stress. By providing expert advice, assessments, and guidance, they can help organisations:

  • Identify and assess the risks of work-related stress
  • Develop strategies and interventions to prevent or reduce stress in the workplace
  • Support employees experiencing work-related stress through assessments, advice, and referrals
  • Facilitate successful return to work processes for employees who have been off due to stress
  • Provide training and resources to promote mental health and wellbeing in the workplace


Handling an employee who is off work due to work-related stress requires a sensitive, supportive, and proactive approach. By maintaining communication, providing access to occupational health support, and developing a structured return to work plan, employers can help their employees recover and reintegrate into the workplace successfully. Equally important is taking preventive measures to identify and manage the risks of work-related stress, fostering a supportive work culture that prioritises employee wellbeing. By working closely with occupational health providers and investing in the mental health of their workforce, organisations can create a healthier, more resilient, and more productive work environment for all.

This article has been written by London City Healthcare, a leading occupational health provider in the UK. Our team of experienced professionals is dedicated to supporting employers and employees in managing work-related stress and promoting mental health in the workplace. We offer a range of services, including occupational health assessments, fit for work assessments, and health questionnaires. For more information on our services and how we can support your organisation, please contact us directly on 0207 236 3334.

Dr Amun Kalia

Dr Amun Kalia

Dr. Kalia helps to run the Occupational Medicine provision for London City healthcare and is a company doctor for one of the largest multinational companies based in the UK.

Outstanding Occupational Health Services

Get in Touch Today

Leave A Comment