Handling work-related stress

THE issue concerning workplace stress has become a worldwide phenomenon.

To fulfil work demands and at the same time focus on one’s private life and family can create a conflict within the mind and spirit which will eventually give rise to stress.

Although it is regarded as something normal faced by any worker, it can also be generated unnecessarily in a workplace. This must and should be handled immediately by the management.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), occupational or work-related stress is the res­ponse people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope.

Stress can happen in a wide range of work circumstances, especially when the workers feel that they receive little or no support or help at all from their employer or top management, their colleagues, or from third party outsiders who come to the organisation.

Examples of occupational or work-related stress which can be considered unnecessary and should be avoided at all cost include fulfilment of unrealistic key performance indicator (KPI), unfair job or work distribution, being forced to do certain task which is unrelated to the worker’s expertise or nothing to do at all with the job scope, facing punishment or penalties without recei­ving proper justification or being threatened with any unfair job termination or retrenchment, loss of wages, illegal conduct or unethical behaviour within the workplace like bullying, being insulted, harassment, and others.

Occupational or work-related stress issue must be tackled immediately as it will create negative effects not only on the individual worker but also on the productivity and the reputation of the organisation.

Although there is no specific legis­lation and Act of Parliament in Malaysia to address the issue of occupational stress, it is still go­­vern­ed by a series of existing labour laws in the country as well as the law of contract and the law of tort.

Under the specific labour laws, the matter can also be dealt under the Employment Act 1955 (Act 265), Industrial Relations Act 1967 (Act 177) and Occupational Safety & Health 1994 (514).

If matters become more serious, action may also be taken through criminal prosecution where the victimised worker can lodge a police report.

The police will then investigate the report and submit the case to the Attorney-General’s office for their further action and consideration whether the case should be brought to court.

However, the victim may also consider lodging the matter through the respective organisation which he or she belongs to.

Every organisation has its own human resource department or unit which should accept and ex­pedite the investigation of the complaint brought to them.

There are no single solutions to address the issue on occupational or work-related stress.

Effort can be taken through im­plementation of work life ba­­lance policy within the workplace like implementing flexible working hours and introducing laws and regulations to address any work-related problem faced by the workers.

Employers should be reminded that they play a vital role to put an end to the problem as they are the leaders within the workplace or organisation which they belong to.

As such, employers must focus on this issue seriously and create a harmonious and peaceful working environment in the workplace where all workers can come and work comfortably, free from any unnecessary stress.

Muzaffar Syah Mallow

Faculty of Syariah & Law,

Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia

workplace stress