Mental Health Risk Management Plan
A1 Guidance for Managers: Risk Assessment of stress at work
This guidance note provides advice for managers on how to conduct a risk assessment of stress
at work in 5 clear stages using the risk management action plan at the end of this section. The
HSE has an on-line step by step guide stress risk assessment.
Much of the guidance in this policy amounts to good management practice. However the
advantage of adopting a risk based system for assessing stress in the workplace is that it is a
proactive approach aimed at preventing stress before it occurs.
The risk assessment should be a collaborative process within teams and should involve senior
managers. A risk assessment should be undertaken for each group of staff e.g. admin staff,
academic staff and research staff. In some circumstances it may be necessary for individuals.
A2 The 5 steps to risk assessment are:
Identify the hazards
Decide who might be harmed and how
Evaluate the risk and take action
Record your findings
Review and monitor your assessment over time
A3 Identify the Hazards
The key work related factors with potential to cause stress in an organisation are:
Demands of the job
Control of work environment
Relationships within the workplace
Support & Organisational Culture
The HSE has issued guidance on management standards (pdf) employers should achieve in
order to minimise work related stress in each of these areas of work stressors.
A4 Decide who might be harmed and how
Some members of the team will be more vulnerable to developing work related stress than
others. In particular those who:
have a history of significant or physical health problems
have been absent work due to work-related stress or difficulties with coping in the past
have personal difficulties which may be unrelated to work
are inexperienced in their role
are of a personality type which tends towards over work.
You may be aware of some of these factors in some of your staff, but if in doubt ask sensitively
and in confidence regarding the risks of work-related stress. Many people cope very well if they
know their manager is supportive.
A5 Evaluate The Risk And Take Action
a. Gathering Data
It is a matter of personal choice how a manger gathers data about their team.
Team discussion/focus groups
Analysis of appraisal reports
Analysis of sickness absence data
Analysis of staff turnover
Stress Questionnaires such as the HSE indicator tool (pdf)
Detailed guidance on gathering data is available on the HSE website
b. Linking problems to solutions
The table below gives practical guidance on how tackle any problems identified.
Consider HSE guidance (pdf) on things that can be done to help you meet the management standards
HAZARD HSE MANAGEMENT STANDARD
A. DEMANDS OF THE JOB EMPLOYEES INDICATE THEY CAN COPE WITH THE
DEMANDS OF THEIR JOBS
Too little time for task Prioritise tasks
Cut out unnecessary work
Inadequate staffing Try to give warning of urgent or important jobs to enable
individuals to plan their work.
Boring or repetitive work Job enrichment/ job rotation
Change the way jobs are done by moving people between jobs,
Too little to do giving individuals more responsibility, increasing the scope of the
job, increasing the variety of tasks, giving a group of workers
greater responsibility for effective performance of the group
Inadequate resources for task Analyse requirements for any project/task:
Supporting students Make staff aware of referral pathways to student services for
help with students with complex problems.-counselling, study
Provide adequate information and training for personal tutors.
Managing staff Ensure all staff in management roles have adequate training and
support from senior colleagues in managing complex staff
Ensure managers know about central services (Educational
development, HR, finance, staff development, occupational
health, counselling, safety) available to support their work.
Have formal written procedures to help new managers.
Employees experiencing excessive workloads Review workload and demands regularly and as an integral part
of the appraisal and performance management process.
Employees working under excessive pressure Support staff in planning their work. Try to establish what
aspects of their job they find challenging. Redistribute work or
set different work priorities if not coping.
The physical working environment Make sure workplace hazards are properly controlled.
poor temperature control Undertake risk assessments of work space and significant tasks
lack of facilities for rest/breaks
The psychological working environment Assess risks, implement controls including appropriate training
threat of aggression or violence
HAZARD HSE MANAGEMENT STANDARD
B. CONTROL EMPLOYEES INDICATE THEY HAVE A SAY IN HOW THEY
DO THEIR WORK
Not being able to balance the demands of work and Encourage a healthy work-life balance. Ensure staff take all their
life outside work allocated holiday allowance and distribute it sensibly across the
Rigid work patterns Try to provide some scope for varying working conditions and
Fixed deadlines occurring in different parts of the flexible work schedules (e.g. flexible working hours, working from
academic year home), and the scope for people to influence the way their jobs
shift work are done.
lone work This will increase their interest and sense of ownership. Avoiding
Lack of control over work scheduling extra projects at busy times of the year.
Conflicting work demands e.g. research and teaching Set realistic deadlines for tasks.
Take into account that everyone is different, and try to allocate
work so that everyone is working in the way that helps them work
best and using their talents.
Be clear about tasks required
Too much training for the job Make sure individuals are matched to jobs.
Too little training for the job Analyse skills alongside the task.
Provide training for those who need more e.g. when introducing
Skills not recognised –promotion prospects not new technology
recognised Increase the scope of jobs for those who are over-trained.
Over promotion Consider mentoring to help less experience staff or those
Other difficulties faced by area/team Discuss stress with the team to create a better understanding of
Details: the difficulties faced and the possible solutions available. This
type of approach can lead to providing a longer-term solution
and one that is shared and supported by the whole team.
C. ROLE EMPLOYEES INDICATE THEY UNDERSTAND THEIR ROLE
Lack of clarity about job role Make sure everyone has a clearly defined job description/ role
Ensure new employees have a full induction.
Revise this when circumstances change eg promotion or
reorganisation of team
Confusion about how everyone fits in i.e. ambiguity Make sure that everyone has clearly defined objectives and
about others’ roles responsibilities linked to business objectives, and training on how
everyone fits in. Visual diagrams can help people’s
understanding of this.
Conflicting demands If reporting to more than one person ensure there are no
conflicting demands on the individual
Ensure all staff have an annual appraisal with clearly defined
objectives with realistic timelines.
Ensure staff can raise any concerns about conflicting demands
on their time.
F. SUPPORT & ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE EMPLOYEES INDICATE THEY RECEIVE ADEQUATE
SUPPORT AND INFORMATION FROM COLLEAGUES AND
Lack of support from managers and co-workers. Support and encourage staff, even when things go wrong.
Consider having regular one to one meetings with staff and
give regular constructive feedback on performance.
Consider introducing a mentoring scheme
Employees unaware of support available to them Ensure staff are aware of support services available to them -the
Staff Counsellor, Occupational Health Service, Chaplaincy ,HR
and Trade Unions
Ensure staff know how to access resources needed to undertake
Lack of communication and consultation Introduce clear objectives, good communication and close
employee involvement, particularly during periods of change.
Hold regular team meetings.
HAZARD HSE MANAGEMENT STANDARD
Failure to celebrate success Acknowledge and reward successes in your staff.
A culture that considers stress a sign of weakness Be approachable – create an atmosphere where people feel it is
OK to talk to you about any problems they are having. Have an
open door policy
Be understanding towards people who admit to being under too
An expectation that people will regularly work Avoid encouraging people to work excessively long hours.
excessively long hours or take work home with them. Lead by example.
Schedule work in a way that allows recovery time after
unavoidable busy periods
E. RELATIONSHIPS EMPLOYEES INDICATE THEY ARE NOT SUBJECTED TO
Poor relationships with others Provide training in interpersonal skills.
Engage in team-building activities, both informal through social
events and formal such as an away day.
Student / Client complaints Provide clear information for clients/students. Consider student
support needs. The student counselling service provides
information and training for staff in personal tutoring.
Combative or confrontational communication styles Encourage constructive and positive communications between
staff. Managers should discuss and address combative and/or
confrontational communication styles with members of staff who
display these behaviours.
Consider training in managing conflict
Bullying, racial or sexual harassment Set up effective systems to prevent bullying and harassment.
Ensure staff are aware of City's policies on equal
opportunities and harassment and know how to get support.
Practise by example and make it clear that these behaviours are
not acceptable in your team.
D. CHANGE EMPLOYEES INDICATE THAT THE ORGANISATION
ENGAGES FREQUENTLY WITH THEM WHEN UNDERGOING
Consult with staff likely to be involved in a change
Poor communication -uncertainty about what is management programme – if staff feel included and
happening acknowledged in the process they are more likely to
cooperate with a change.
Fears about job security Provide timely information so they have time to
understand the reasons for change
Not enough time allowed to implement change Provide effective support for staff throughout the process.
Getting together as a team can help people feel less
Inexperience/fear of new technology isolated with their concerns
Ensure effective two way communication throughout
Lack of skills for new tasks process – knowing exactly what is going to happen when
can help people feel less anxious about a change. Consider
Not enough resource allocated for change process developing a timetable of the change process
Allow adequate time for the process – time planning for the
Dysfunctional teams change and for people to talk through their concerns about
the change will pay off at a later stage
Allocate adequate resources – this includes financial
resources, space, time and the emotional energy needed to
effect the change
Consider training needs – do people have the tools to effect
change? Does the skill mix of the team need to be
HAZARD HSE MANAGEMENT STANDARD
Consider environmental factors – a poor work
environment can be very stressful.
Consider changes in group dynamics – an apparently
small change e.g. a different positioning of desks can have a
major impact on communication and work relationships
A6 Record your findings
If your risk assessment has identified areas of concern and you have taken steps to develop
some solutions, it is important that you:
record these and how you identified them;
agree realistic timescales with staff
share your plans with senior management
communicate the outcome to your staff;
decide how you are going to review the results.
The best method of achieving this is to write and disseminate an action plan.
An action plan is a key part of your risk assessment and should at least include the following:
what the problem is;
how the problem was identified;
what you are going to do in response;
how you arrived at this solution;
some key milestones and dates for them to be reached;
a commitment to provide feedback to employees on progress;
a date for reviewing against the plan
The plan should be signed and dated
A7 Review your assessment and revise where necessary
Follow up changes you make to ensure that they’re having the effect you intended.
You might consider a follow up survey using the indicator tool (pdf) to measure progress
since last assessment.
Review what you’ve done when you make major changes in your workplace (e.g.
organisational change, new equipment, work systems or processes) or if there is a
change in management or personnel to make sure that stress has not increased.
Review the assessment if anyone declares work related stress
Review assessment at least once a year