As an employer, you have a duty of care to your employees for their health, safety and general wellbeing. Within any industry, there can be a multitude of factors that can impact on your employees’ wellbeing, whether that is ensuring your workforce have the correct safety equipment to carry out their role, or that they have manageable workloads.
The widow of the late Dr Malcolm Anderson, a Lecturer at Cardiff University, has recently demanded employers take action to tackle workload pressures. Dr Anderson sadly took his own life in 2018 as a result of mounting working pressures, culminating in him having to work evenings, weekends and whilst on holiday; in addition to his full-time contracted hours. Annual appraisals showed that Dr Anderson repeatedly complained of his unmanageable workload in the four years before his death, however, no action was taken by the University. Rather alarmingly, internal surveys at the University found that a third of staff said they had to work unreasonable hours to fulfil their job requirements.
In some cases, both mental and physical wellbeing are overlooked in order to maximise work output and revenue. However, will an unhappy, overworked and tired workforce really maximise your revenue? Possibly in the short term, but certainly not in the long term. Striking a balance between your work expectations and your employees’ wellbeing is crucial and getting it wrong can have far reaching consequences as with the case of Dr Anderson. Furthermore, failing in your duty can breach the implied term of mutual trust and confidence which could entitle an employee to resign and pursue a claim of constructive unfair dismissal.
So, what can you, as an employer, do to ensure you have a ‘productive’ but ‘healthy’ workforce?
• Look out for possible indicators that an employee may be struggling with their workload and more importantly, act on these! For example: are employees increasingly coming in early or working late? Do they have annual leave left at the end of the year which they haven’t utilised?
• Create an environment whereby employees are encouraged to raise concerns about any issues they are experiencing with their workload.
• Have regular 1-2-1s and appraisals with your employees.
• Ensure managers are properly recording discussions or concerns raised and documenting what measures will be put in place to address any concerns and ensure they are regularly reviewed.
• Don’t take broad brush approach. Not all employees have the same work capacity and their personal circumstances differ. Understand an employee’s workload by requesting them to complete a daily work plan over a specific period (e.g. a month).
• Consider appointing someone to be mental health first-aider within the workplace.
For specialist advice on your duty of care to your employees or on any other employment law matter, please contact our Coventry based Employment Law Solicitors:
Email: Lianne@askewslegal.co / Jake@askewslegal.co
Askews Legal LLP, 5 The Quadrant, Coventry, CV1 2EL Tel: 024 7623 1000 www.askewslegal.co