PCS’s advice is for members to use the AR1 (Accident Report form) to report Work Related Stress. The Accident form is for reporting accidents, near misses, incidents and work place health issues.
DWP’s stress policy is based on the Health and Safety Executives Management Standards for Work Related Stress. This policy is based on a risk assessment approach and strives to establish causes and identify actions to reduce and manage the level of stress for the individual in the work place. These are improvements we argued for but they don’t quite go far enough.
PCS believes the AR1 process and the trends identified using this process are integral to establishing this. Stress caused by work is clearly a work place health issue and therefore should be recorded as such. The issue would be investigated by the manager and the Health and Safety rep.
It is important that trends and risks are identified
Incidents of Work Related Stress should be collated and trends highlighted and discussed at health and safety committee meetings. This could help identify problems in the way we work.
It is also important that AR1s are completed in case stress leads to an absence from work. This would be necessary for Industrial Injuries Disablement benefits or for a personal injury case taken up by the unions solicitors as they would need to ascertain when first reported and what actions were taken.
The Department maintains that stress at an organisational level is captured via the staff survey and that this should highlight stress that is related to disability and other areas covered by the Equality Act. However the survey is only carried out once a year and therefore does not replace using AR1s, investigations and consultation on the issues.
PCS believes that recording stress and illness or psychiatric injury caused by prolonged work related stress is of the utmost importance as failure to do so at the right time can result in time off work, delays in referral to OHS, failure to implement reasonable adjustments, attendance management action and ultimately can lead to dismissal. If trends are investigated the ways of working should be investigated and the risk assessments reviewed.
Stress is the biggest cause of sick absence
The Department acknowledges that stress is the biggest cause of sick absence in the DWP. There are many causes of stress, not all based on the individual but can be based on the way the organisation works. There are many issues of increased stress in the DWP including
Insufficient staff and lack of resources
Job design doesn’t always take into action Health & Safety issues or the reasonable adjustments required
- The office closure programme
- Individual targets and micromanagement
- The way working patterns and leave are implemented
- Working environment
Stress can also be caused by personal issues affecting the individual.
Reporting of Stress at individual Level and AR1s
The Department does not want people to use the AR1 to report stress and they maintain that other Government departments do not use the AR1 for stress. This is not a good enough reason for not taking the appropriate steps to look after staff welfare. They also say HSE guidelines don’t say that stress has to be reported this way but they don’t say that you cant either. The HSE say that Stress is not RIDDOR reportable but stress issues can be raised with the HSE but to do that there has to be a way of gathering the evidence.
However whilst the department are discouraging the use of the AR1s for reporting stress they have acknowledge that we can encourage our members to use these forms and if completed the appropriate action will need to be carried out. This means that the incident gets investigated by a trade union health and safety rep and management and that MI data is produced at safety meetings so that trends can be identified.
We are not opposed to an alternative to the AR1 being devised as long as we have assurance that it would have the same legal weight as an AR1. We have frequent reports that a member of staff notifying their line manager that they are suffering with stress does not always get actioned. There is an issue with stress being correctly taken forward when in a lot of instances a contributing factor is how the staff member and work is being managed. There needs to be a safe supported way of reporting stress which does not potentially put them into conflict with their line manager.
The new stress policy has been in place six months and there are some improvements but it doesn’t cover all the things we would want.
Therefore PCS encourages you to use the new individual stress risk assessment but you should not be made to complete it as this process is voluntary. If you do the stress risk assessment, and there is action to take, you should work with your manager, or another if you choose, on the new stress reduction plan. You can have a TU rep with you for this.
Continue to use the AR1s in cases of work related stress. We recommend that when you send this to your line manager or other suitable manager and that you also copy in your local PCS Health and Safety rep and contact us if you experience opposition to the use of this form.