Excessive Stress and Eliminating Barriers to Decent Work

Authors Marika Smuts & Denine Smit

ISSN: 2413-9874
Affiliations: Master of Laws (LLM) graduate, University of the Free State; Associate Professor of Mercantile Law, University of the Free State
Source: Industrial Law Journal, Volume 41 Issue 2, 2020, p. 779 – 803


The world of work has changed dramatically across the globe. Increasing demands in the workplace, the emergence of new methods of arranging work and the development of new technologies have brought an escalation in the prevalence of excessive stress and, thus, both physical and mental illness in the workplace. This is exacerbated by rising global economic instability, unemployment and political turbulence. In South Africa, employers are under a legal obligation to take reasonable care of their employees and to safeguard their health and safety in the workplace. This duty extends to employees’ right to a workplace that is, as far as reasonably practicable, free of any hazards and risks which may affect their physical and mental health. Accordingly, employers have a duty to protect employees from the harmful consequences of excessive stress in the workplace. Against a background on the prevalence of excessive stress and its impact on employees, employers and society, this article investigates various ways to mitigate the adverse effects of psychosocial hazards or risks in the workplace as a contributor to the occurrence of excessive workplace stress. Attention is given to the influence of ILO standards on occupational safety and health, and the ILO’s goal of decent work and sustainable development.