Employers have been advised it is in their interests to prevent and manage stress at work, as a new guide is launched highlighting the potential legal risks they face if they ignore their responsibilities in this area.

The CIPD guide with support from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Acas and the cross-government Health, Work and Wellbeing programme, spells out employers’ legal obligations in identifying and preventing stress in the workplace.

The guide, Work-related stress: what the law says, which was written by John Hamilton, head of safety, health and wellbeing at Leeds Metropolitan University, also highlights recent cases where employers have faced significant compensation payouts for failing to identify and prevent stress adequately. In addition it provides advice on how employers can tackle stress through good people management.

Dame Black, national director for health and work, commented: “It is in employers’ interests to manage stress at work proactively and not just assume all staff are coping.”

The CIPD’s quarterly July 2010 Employee Outlook survey showed almost half (49%) of staff have noticed an increase in stress at work as a result of the economic downturn.