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Tuesday 16 April 2019

CPS launches the FDA's ground-breaking stress policy


A ground-breaking stress policy created by the FDA has been launched in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Designed by FDA members, the CPS Managing Work-Related Stress Policy is believed to be the first of its kind implemented in any UK Government department or agency.

FDA Health & Safety representative Helen Wheatley was the key instigator of this new policy. Analysing the data provided to her by CPS, she saw that stress and mental health issues were the single highest reason for both short and long-term absence. This, she detected, was the case across all the department’s areas and grades.

Wheatley grew concerned with both the individuals affected by stress. She was also worried about the impact  this would have on remaining staff who inevitably have to assume tasks their absent colleagues would have done “had they been fit enough to work”.

“We do not come into work to be made ill,” Wheatley insisted. She began to research policies used by NHS Trusts, and discovered best practice for managing stress in the workplace. Together with FDA CPS Convenor David Chrimes, she lobbied the department to implement change. This was supported by PCS reps and, in March 2019, the new policy was put in place.

“I am very proud to have been the FDA lead on this together with David,” Wheatley said, “who realised some time ago that the CPS needed such a policy and who has provided support and advice throughout the negotiation process with CPS.”

The best practice policy seeks to tackle stress by providing the tools for staff members and/or managers to identify it, and ensuring “individuals who experience stress are supported and managed effectively and sensitively.” The new policy focuses both on at-risk staff members, and the problems that could result from particular projects. Or, as FDA National Officer Steven Littlewood puts it, “it looks at stress as an issue that can affect the individual and the collective".

Littlewood is keen to see this policy implemented across Governmental departments and bodies. “Stress is not just isolated to CPS – it is endemic throughout public service,” he said. “What Helen has created is a blueprint. Her policy can be replicated, and we would like to see more employers use her work to help their staff.” 

As reported in Civil Service World, the union is calling on its members to help make this a reality by pushing for their employer to adopt a stress risk assessment policy.

For support in tackling stress in your workplace and to find out more about the specifics of the CPS policy, contact your National Officer

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