Does mindfulness at work carry a legal risk?

Employers could create more stresses than they alleviate, and they may even be open to claims, writes employment lawyer Hannah Ford

It seems you can’t go a day without another headline about workplace stress. Employers lost 9.9 million working days to work-related stress, depression and anxiety in 2014-15, according to the Health and Safety Executive, and two-fifths of respondents to the CIPD’s Absence Management 2015 survey said stress-related absence in their organisation had increased over the past year.

To mitigate the cost of employee absence and the risk of stress-related claims, many employers are looking to alternative practices to help staff learn new tools to cope. Top of the buzzword list at the moment seems to be ‘mindfulness’.

Defining it as ‘a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations’, Nicky Anstey, master NLP life coach at Mind-Body Wellness, says: “The best employers are those that nurture a symbiotic relationship, to increase the performance and wellbeing of their employees.”

But there is a flipside to mindfulness training, and employers should be wary when considering offering it to their workforce.

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Hannah Ford

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