Employer Quick Guide: Recognising signs of stress in apprentices

Stress is a major cause of sickness absence in the workplace and costs over £5 billion a year in Great Britain.

Apprentices feel stress when they can’t cope with pressures and other issues. Employers should try to match demands to workers’ skills and knowledge. For example, apprentices can get stressed if they feel they don’t have the skills or time to meet tight deadlines. The pressures of an apprenticeship can add to stress if the apprentice doesn’t have the resources to handle it.

Stress affects people differently – what stresses one person may not affect another. Factors like skills and experience, age or disability may all affect whether an apprentice can cope.

Sources of stress

Common sources of stress for apprentices include:

  • Not being able to cope with the demands of their job
  • Feeling unable to control the way they do their work
  • Not receiving enough information and support
  • Having trouble with relationships at work, or being bullied
  • Not fully understanding their role, responsibilities or the requirements of their apprenticeship
  • Not feeling engaged when a business is undergoing change.

By talking to your workers and understanding how to identify the signs of stress, you can prevent and reduce stress in your workplace.

Signs of stress

If apprentices start acting differently, it can be a sign they are stressed. Managers should look out for signs of stress in teams and workers, and in particular in apprentices who juggle work and study. Stress could be linked to work pressure and there may be some simple things you can do to relieve stress and support your workers to be stress-free and more productive.

Acting early can reduce the impact of stress and make it easier to reduce or remove the causes. It’s worthwhile training your line managers to spot the signs of stress in apprentices and teams.

Signs of stress in teams

Signs of stress within a team can include:

  • arguments
  • higher staff turnover
  • more reports of stress or being overloaded
  • more sickness absence
  • decreased performance
  • more complaints and grievances.

Signs of stress in apprentices

A change in the way an apprentice acts can be a sign of stress, for example they may:

  • Take more time off
  • Arrive for work later
  • Be more twitchy or nervous
  • Procrastinate or put off important tasks.

A change in the way someone thinks or feels can also be a sign of stress, for example:

  • Mood swings
  • Being withdrawn
  • Loss of motivation, commitment and confidence
  • Increased emotional reactions – being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive.

What should managers do?

Providing planning, training and support can reduce pressure and bring stress levels down.

Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and taking action to protect apprentices and other workers. If you have fewer than five workers you don’t have to write anything down. If you have five or more workers, you are required by law to write the risk assessment down. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has resources to support this here, including the Management Standards approach, which helps identify and manage the main causes of stress at work.

Managers should encourage apprentices and workers to recognise the signs of stress and identify the causes. They can encourage the apprentice to:

  • Talk to someone, such as a manager
  • Find out what policies are in place to deal with the cause of their stress
  • Seek advice from a trade union representative, worker representative, or the HR department as necessary
  • Speak to their GP if they suspect their stress could be a symptom of another condition.

Having an open-door policy may encourage apprentices to speak up about potential issues and resolve them before they become a source of stress for the team.

If there is something wrong at work, and this has caused the problem, managers should take action as soon as possible. Often the sooner an issue is resolved, the less it affects mental health, workplace relationships and productivity.

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Contains public sector information published by the
Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence’.

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