If you have suffered from avoidable stress in your workplace, our expert solicitors can help you to get the compensation that you deserve. Studies have shown that stress in the workplace is on the rise and is especially prevalent in public sectors.
Get in touch today for expert help and advice if you feel that you are struggling with stress in your job.
What is occupational stress?
Because most jobs put you at risk of some form of stress, the particular stress that you have experienced must be classed as having caused you some form of psychiatric injury. In order for this to be proved, these four criteria must be met:
- Condition. It must be medically proved that you are suffering from a recognised psychiatric injury
- Causation. The psychiatric injury must, on balance, have been caused primarily by the stress of the employment and not any external factors such as bereavement or problems in your home life.
- Foreseeability. You will need to prove that your employers should have foreseen the risk of you developing a mental illness. This is difficult to prove without expert legal support.
- Negligence. You must be able to prove that the psychiatric injury you have suffered was the fault of your employer and could potentially have been avoided. Examples of this may be if your employer provided you with too much work or generally failed in their duty of care towards you.
What is my employer’s responsibility?
In any workplace, your employer has a legal responsibility to maintain their duty of care towards you as their employee. Basic requirements state that employers must:
- Provide health and safety training
- Provide specialised equipment – such as protective clothing – if necessary
- Deal with staff grievances promptly
- Take allegations of any misconduct seriously
- Protect their staff from any discrimination
- Ensure that staff do not work excessive hours
What should I do?
Landmark cases in workplace stress have outlined some of the ways in which employees are responsible for making their employers aware of their own mental stresses. Particularly in the case of Hatton v Sutherland, it was found that:
- The individual is in charge of his/her own mental health
- The individual can gauge whether the job was doing him/her any harm
- The individual can then do something about it
It is therefore up to the employee to make it obvious that there was a ‘sufficient indication of impending harm to health arising from stress at work which was plain enough for any reasonable employer to have realised, so as to trigger a duty to do something about it.’ (LJ Hale in Sutherland v Hatton 5/2/02).
Another case that explored this idea is that of Mr Barber v Somerset County Council. This was the first occupational stress case to go to the House of Lords, and involved a teacher – Mr Barber – who felt that he could no longer deal with his workload after a restructuring. Mr. Barber ultimately won his case, but it was considered borderline and highlighted the responsibility of the employee to always communicate problems to the employer. One Judge stated that; ‘They are all adults. They choose their profession,’ thus implying that there was too high a duty of care expected from the employer.
Taking these cases into account, it is beneficial to seek specialist advice that relates to your individual case in order to have the best possible chance of success.
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