MORE than half of employees in the South West say they know a colleague who has had to quit work due to stress.

One in eight workers have been stressed at work in the past year, the research by Capita Employee Benefits found.

Twenty-eight per cent of people who have personally suffered with stress said nothing was done after they addressed the issue with their employer.

Dorset-based PR practitioner Steve Bendell, who has a diploma in stress management, runs programmes for managers to help them identify early warning signs of stress or draft stress policies.

He said there was an important difference between pressure and stress, which was the adverse reaction to excessive pressure or other demands, and which arises when people worry they cannot cope.

“It is good if those at the top and senior managers understand what stress really is and the legal responsibilities they have,” he said.

“The sound business case should be fairly compelling and can help illicit support for the policy as a whole. The training the managers receive should equip them to be able to understand the rationale for stress management, to carry out risk assessment to the required standard and to help them to be more receptive and supportive to the colleagues they work with.

“Managers are the key people and, it is worth pointing out to them, legally liable for the employee welfare.

“Staff should be engaged from the word go and know that training and assessments are taking place.”

He added: “The implications of not having a stress policy include very high potential compensation costs and much higher employer’s liability insurance premiums.

“Even apart from those major considerations, research carried out shows that work-related stress has an adverse effect on business.”

Alistair Dornan, head of health and risk management at Capita Employee Benefits, said of its research: “A shocking 15.2million working days were lost to stress, depression and anxiety in 2013 and, as these results show, employees clearly feel they’re not getting the support they need to be able to deal with stress to the point where people know colleagues who’ve been forced to quit.”

He added: “Half the problem with stress is that it can be a silent issue – with people simply taking time off because they can’t face work.”