Social work managers urged to risk assess stress on their teams

NICE guidance also calls for a national database to assess the cost effectiveness of strategies in reducing staff turnover and absenteeism

Credit: Burger/Phanie/Rex Features

Social work managers should be trained to undertake risk assessments of stress within their teams according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

The recommendation is part of its new guidance on improving the health and wellbeing of employees, which also evaluates the cost-effectiveness of strategies.

Stress risk assessments are part of the Health and Safety Executive’s management standards and focus on six areas: demand, control, support, relationships, role and change.

Specific duty on managers

NICE has also recommended ensuring the job descriptions for line managers include a specific duty for employees’ physical and mental wellbeing and allowing employees to work as flexibly as possible to improve their work-life balance.

Senior managers should consider the health and wellbeing of employees a core priority and should produce a solid business case for ensuring it remains so.

To help with this, NICE also produced a “ready reckoner” so organisations can gauge for themselves the impact strategies and training have had on reducing staff absenteeism, presenteeism (where employees are sick but still at work), staff turnover and increased productivity.

National database needed

NICE’s report team admitted the “ready reckoner” was created because it could find no studies on the cost-effectiveness of managerial policies in this area despite an extensive literature search.

It recommended creating a national database on the effect of new activities, policies and organisational change on health and wellbeing including productivity and business outcomes.

The “ready reckoner” works by inputting the expected cost per head of an initiative (such as training of frontline managers) and it works out what reductions in absenteeism and turnover are needed to pay for the training costs. It can also be used to estimate the extent of improvement in staff satisfaction and productivity.

Cost of coming to work

However, the institute said the evidence so far indicated that presenteeism (where employees are sick but still at work) could be more costly then absenteeism because it was more likely to occur among higher paid employees.

It also said the research indicated a relatively small investment in line-manager training seemed to be linked to at least equal, if not greater gains, in reduced absenteeism and staff turnover.

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