Stress and Harassment at work

People on their way to work

An Industrial Society report has claimed that 5,000,000 employees “a fifth of the working population” suffer from high levels of stress at work, that seriously affect their physical and mental health. 

The same society reported that employers believe work place stress to be the “fastest growing health issue” they will face over the coming years. 

Work related stress compensation claims

Digby Brown take work related stress claims extremely seriously. However it is often difficult to pursue such cases to a successful conclusion. 

In recent years the Scottish and English Court have issued key opinions from which it is possible to establish essential criteria which require to be met for a work related stress compensation claim to succeed. These criteria include the following:

  1. If a claim is based on the negligence of an employer, it is necessary to specify the type of conduct, or lack of conduct on the part of an employer that amounts to a breach of their legal duty to take reasonable care for a worker’s safety. It does not automatically follow that because a worker suffers from stress as a result of working conditions, that a breach of duty will be established. Situations such as over work, unsympathetic supervisors, lack of support / resources or unfair treatment in comparison to others will not necessarily, by themselves, be sufficient to establish a breach of duty.
  2. In the absence of any physical injury, even if negligence is established, the Courts will normally only allow compensation where mental harm has been suffered in the form of a recognised psychiatric illness. Conditions such as stress, distress, anxiety and depression, even if referred to by a GP as justifying absences from work, are not necessarily psychiatric illnesses. The Courts have held that many, if not all workers are liable to suffer emotions such as stress, anxiety, loss of confidence and low mood and that to suffer such emotions from time to time, not least because of problems at work, is a normal part of human experience. 
  3. It is necessary to establish that an employer ought to have foreseen that a worker was under a material risk of sustaining a psychiatric illness in consequence of their behaviour. One way to establish this would be to show that some sort of direct warning has been given to an employer by a suitably qualified medical expert. Alternatively, if a worker suffers a “second breakdown” that is, the worker was off work as a consequence of a psychiatric illness and returned only for the employer to continue with their negligent conduct, then foreseeability may be established.

Harassment at work claim

In addition to pursuing a negligence based claim, it may be possible to pursue a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, if it can be shown that loss or injury has been suffered as a consequence of the bullying or harassment of another. 

It is not necessary for there to be a formal diagnosis of a psychiatric illness to recover compensation under this legislation, but the conduct complained of must be continuous and of a sufficiently serious nature to justify this remedy.

Contact us today for more advice about compensation claim

If you have work related stress or are experiencing bullying or harassment at work, contact us to find out if we can help.