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Stress Management Policy

1.    Introduction 

1.1 Cardiff University believes that its employees are its most important asset and that their well-being is essential to effective work performance and the provision of a high quality service.  The University recognises that it has a duty of care to its employees and that this duty extends to the active promotion of staff health and welfare in the broadest sense.

1.2 Cardiff University recognises that stress is a health and safety issue and that it has many causes, including those arising from pressures in the workplace and those which affect the life of employees away from work.  A controlled level of stress can lead to improved motivation, performance and increased job satisfaction.  By contrast, excessive stress is damaging to the individual and ultimately to the University.

1.3 This policy should be read in conjunction with the associated guidance document ‘Recognising and Managing Stress: Guidelines for Employees and Managers’.  Both the policy and the guidance will be subject to regular review and will therefore be amended from time to time.


2.    Definition of Stress

2.1 Most people are exposed to regular pressures as part of their normal day to day lives and will generally cope with, and in many cases thrive on, moderate amounts of pressure with no detrimental effects.  Indeed, lack of pressure or stimulation can be just as stressful for some people as too much pressure can be for others.  The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as,

‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them.’


3.    Aims of the Policy

3.1 The aims of the Policy are:

• to increase an awareness of stress amongst managers and staff and explore methods available to combat it;
• to initiate action to manage and reduce those pressures which lead to stress;
• to assist staff in managing stress in others and themselves;
• to manage problems which do occur and to provide accessible and confidential support;
• to monitor and assess stress indicators;
• to encourage a flexible yet confidential approach to those individuals suffering from stress;
• to manage effectively the return to work of those who have been absent as a result of stress.


4.    Responsibilities

Ultimate responsibility for this policy rests with the Council as the employer. However, Council will require the Vice-Chancellor to ensure that the policy is effectively applied.

4.1 As with all matters relating to health and safety the Vice-Chancellor will devolve responsibility for the application of this policy, and any supporting guidance, to Heads of Schools and Administrative Directors.

4.2 Heads of School and Departments must therefore understand the nature and causes of occupational stress.  Training should be made available to enable them to identify occupational stress and to understand recognised means of prevention, control and reduction.  Their specific responsibilities will be:

• To implement the University Stress Policy for employees under their managerial control;
• To ensure that risk assessments take place and address any potential hazards relating from occupational stress;
• To participate in, and to ensure the provision of, appropriate training to support the identification of occupational stress and recognised means of prevention, control and reduction;
• To ensure that reasonable steps are taken to minimise the potential for risks arising from occupational stress.

4.3   Heads of School and Departments may wish to devolve some authority in relation to this policy and its implementation. It is important therefore that members of staff who have management/supervisory roles should ensure that:

• There is good communication between management and staff, particularly at times of organisational and / or other change;
• They are aware of the necessary skills that staff need to complete their roles successfully and that they provide staff with appropriate development opportunities through the relevant University processes of Probation and Appraisal;
• They monitor the physical work environment, workload, working hours, overtime levels and that they ensure that staff take their full holiday entitlement;
• They deal immediately with issues of conflict, bullying and/or harassment

4.4 Individual members of staff have a duty to:

• Take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others likely to be affected by their actions.
• Co-operate with the University in ensuring that the aims and objectives of the occupational stress policy are achieved.
• Raise issues of concern with their line manager / supervisor, Human Resources Department and/or the Occupational Health Unit.  The available support mechanisms are particularly relevant should an individual feel that their line manager/supervisor is connected to the stress they are experiencing.

4.5 The Human Resources Committee will oversee implementation of the Policy.  The Committee will also monitor the effectiveness of stress management training for staff that have management or supervisory roles, and will ensure that this policy is fully integrated with other human resource and University policies, such as Work-Life Balance, Family Friendly, Equality and Diversity, Sickness Absence, Sport and Exercise Strategy, Dignity at Work and Study etc.   The Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Committee will monitor the overall effectiveness of the policy.  Both these committees report to the Strategy and Resources Committee.


5    Staff Development and Training


5.1 Many staff experience stress through feeling that they are not adequately trained for their current post and are especially at risk when they move to a new or changed role.  The identification of training needs should have a high priority, especially so in cases where restructuring of individual posts, sections or larger units is taking place.

5.2 The identification and meeting of training needs should not be seen merely as a token annual exercise but as a continuing and vital process.  This is an integral part of University processes such as Induction, Probation and Appraisal.

5.3 In relevant management and supervisory training (as well as in other relevant skills courses), it is highly recommended that stress management should be discussed as part of a manager’s responsibilities.  In the same context, managers and supervisors should also examine how they can deal with their own issues of stress management.

5.4 The Staff Development Programme offers Stress Management training and other management and supervisory courses at regular intervals throughout the academic year.  Managers and supervisors should ensure that staff attend these courses as appropriate. Relevant training for those managers and supervisors responsible for implementing all or some aspects of the University’s Stress Management Policy will also be provided.


6. Implementation

Implementation of this policy is the responsibility of individual Schools / Departments.

Effective implementation of this policy can be achieved by following the guidance which is set out in the policy and in the supporting documents.

6.1 HR will actively collaborate with the unions (and staff), in generating an awareness of and approval for, workplace stress risk assessments and audits.

6.2 All Schools and Departments will need to assess effective stress management practices through a baseline workplace stress audit, supported by the Occupational Safety Health and Environment Unit.

6.3 All Schools and Departments will be required to conduct a set of generic stress risk assessments utilising the baseline information from audits and any other supporting information.

6.4 Action plans should be drafted in consultation with the relevant groups (Trade Unions, Occupational Safety Health and Environment Unit and Human Resources), and initiated within each School and Department.  This information will assist in planning review processes for the School/Department.

6.5 Any individual exhibiting signs and symptoms of inappropriate stress levels requiring immediate support should work with the relevant management structure within the School/Department.  If the situation is not remedied by this action or an individual member of staff feels it would be inappropriate to speak to their immediate line manager/supervisor or the situation continues to deteriorate than individuals should be referred to Human Resources and/or Occupational Health.


7.    Monitoring 

Monitoring and evaluation are essential to any effective policy of stress management.  They provide the necessary feedback that is critical to the maintenance and development of strategies, procedures and action plans designed to control stress in the workplace.

Monitoring is an ongoing process. There are several different areas where monitoring will be conducted centrally, outside the School and Department, using existing processes such as appraisal, probation and employee turnover and sickness absence rates. The specific elements that are monitored are identified in the guidance notes set out in the policy and supporting documents

7.1 All Schools and Departments will identify and monitor specific indicators of stress within their areas of responsibility.  These indicators can be varied and numerous and Schools and Departments will need to work with the supporting Departments to monitor and collate appropriate information on these indicators.

7.2 Schools and Departments will need support to provide appropriate and adequate training to identify and deal with these indicators of stress. Much of this training will be provided through the Staff Development Programme.

7.3 All Schools and Departments will need to communicate regularly with Human Resources and Occupational Health with appropriate data regarding stress.

7.4 All Schools and Departments, with support from relevant areas of central administration, need to develop an appropriate action plan for any identified workplace stress in consultation with staff and such plans must be subject to continuous monitoring and evaluation.


8     Further Information

The Health and Safety Executive has a comprehensive guide to Stress.  This information can be accessed online at

The University Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Unit can provide you with varied support in relation to stress and more information can be found at

The University Counselling service information can be found at

Comments regarding the content of this policy should be made to the Director of Human Resources.