UCL Human Resources


Managing Stress at Work

This document aims to establish standards for managers and staff on the prevention of work related stress.



1. Stress can impact the physical and mental health of staff, as well as their behaviour, performance, and relationships with colleagues. It's a major cause of long-term absence from work. 

2. UCL has a duty of care and a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment for employees. The organisation, managers and employees all play a role in the prevention of work-related stress.  

Prevention of work-related stress 

Organisation arrangements 

3. UCL aims to ensure, as far as is reasonably possible, that staff work in a safe environment with safe systems of work by: 

  • preventing bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct;  

  • developing sound management practice based on fair treatment; 

  • providing a framework of employment, health, safety and security policies and systems to support minimisation of work-related stress; 

  • promoting inclusive ways of working in line with the Equality Act 

  • providing information and training to enable staff to develop their skills  

  • providing appropriate employee support services to support the physical, mental and emotional health of employees through Workplace Health  

Manager’s responsibility 

4. To minimise the risk of work-related stress within their team, managers must: 

  • design jobs to avoid conflicting demands and ensure expectations and the job role are clear 

  • fully train staff to undertake the demands of their job through effective induction and enable them to contribute to decisions about how the job is done 

  • play an active role in facilitating and supporting staff to do their job effectively.   

  • provide regular opportunities for feedback on performance e.g. regular ‘one-to-one’ meetings and team meetings; 

  • make time to understand the demands on a team member, their individual needs and circumstances.   

  • encourage staff to take appropriate rest time; use and record their annual leave allowance  

  • record all staff absences on MyHR to ensure accurate records can be accessed, reviewed, patterns of absence identified, and support offered where appropriate. 

  • identify signs of problems, triggers for stress and respond to these.   

  • be available to staff who are experiencing stress and support them in addressing their needs  

  • complete stress risk assessments with staff members to ensure the impact of stress is being managed and mitigated 

  • discuss reasonable adjustments if they are requested, or a disability is declared 

Employee Responsibilities

5. In order to minimise the risk of work-related stress, you should:  

  • take an active role in managing your wellbeing   

  • seek appropriate advice and support at an early stage if difficulties arise 

  • request a confidential conversation with your manager about how you feel, if you have concerns  

  • speak to your manager or HR Business Partner if you need guidance   

  • consider letting your manager know if you have a disability or health condition, so you can discuss potential adjustments 

  • consider a self-referral, or ask your manager for a referral, to Workplace Health if you are experiencing a medical condition that impacts your work 

  • visit the Workplace Health pages to access wellbeing resources 

  • visit Organisational Development (OD) to access staff development opportunities to meet changing demands. 

  • use UCL’s Employee Assistance Programme to support your wellbeing  

  • to take appropriate rest time; use annual leave allowance and record absences on MyHR.  

Guidelines and toolkits 

6. Guidelines and toolkits have been created for staff and managers to support them in following this policy  

Risk assessment and risk management  

7. All staff may experience periods of pressure at work, and short periods of pressure are not necessarily of concern. The risk from sustained and/or excessive pressure without the opportunity to recover, should be assessed. As a result, measures can be put in place to control the risk of adverse effects. 


8. The Health and Safety Executive has identified six key ‘Management Standards’ that if managed effectively will increase positive health and well-being and organisational performance. The ‘Management Standards’ provide a practical framework that can be used to minimise the impact of work-related stress. 

Role within the team and organisation   

Demands of the job   
Control over the way work is carried out   
Support provided by the organisation, management and colleagues   
Relationships within the workplace   
How organisational change is managed and communicated   
Stress risk assessments 

9. A stress risk assessment is designed to bring about a meaningful conversation that will ensure actions are taken to remove or reduce the causes and impact of stress. It is a tool that will:   

  • help identify workplace stressors  
  • give managers a better understanding of what a member of staff is experiencing  
  • help to gauge the severity of the risk the stressor presents  
  • enable a discussion around solutions and put actions into place  

Manager’s role: 

  • complete a stress risk assessment with the member of staff present when a member of staff raises concerns over stress 
  • monitor the impact of the actions in place and initiate a review based on this 

10. The stress risk assessment should be reviewed once the actions have been implemented.  The stress risk assessment should be repeated if the employee continues to experience stress at work, to explore alternative or additional solutions and support.  

11. The stress risk assessment should be completed on RiskNET, instructions can be found in the Manager’s guide to managing stress 

Employees role: 

  • raise concerns with a manager when experiencing stress 
  • participate in completing a stress risk assessment with the line manager  
  • monitor the impact of the actions 

Sources of support for staff and managers  

  • Dignity at UCL provides information on UCL's dignity advisors and policy towards harassment, intimidation and bullying, as well as advice for staff and students

  • Employee Assistance Programme provide emotional support and practical advice for both work and non-work-related issues

  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) team provides advice on inclusive practice

  • HR Business Partnering team advise on UCL’s policies and support available

  • Organisational Development (OD) offers staff development opportunities to do their jobs effectively and meet changing demands.

  • Report and Support is an anonymous reporting platform for staff who consider themselves subject to bullying, harassment, or sexual misconduct at work.

  • Safety Services provide advice on safe work environment and risk assessments.

  • Trade Union members can approach their TU reps for support.  TU reps also contribute to discussions and subsequent actions on matters concerning staff welfare.

  • Workplace Health provide advice on concerns about the effects of work on health. 

Implementation and monitoring 

12. Anonymous data relating to staff's health and wellbeing is collected, monitored, and reported to the University Management Committee and UCL’s Council monthly. This includes annual leave, sickness absence data (both to be recorded on MyHR), management referrals to Workplace Health, number of completed stress risk assessments, and issues reported by union colleagues at the Workplace Health and Safety Committee. 

13. Local action plans will be requested from areas where data indicates that work related stress may be an issue in that area.

HR Division: Employment Policy

July 2022