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SKU: 6.65
  • Advice

    The Health and Safety Executive has commented that workers can regularly experience pressure at work during their normal working day. Problems arise when a worker experiences too much pressure and feels unable to cope. In law, the definition of stress is “an excess of demands upon an individual above their ability to cope". Stress on its own will not be enough for a claim for psychiatric injury to be successful, it must be shown that the stress resulted in a recognised “psychiatric illness”. 


    The 5 key elements of a claim for psychiatric injury

    • A recognised psychiatric illness

    This must be met by expert evidence from someone suitably trained;

    • Breach of a duty of case,

    All employers owe a duty of care to their employees to take reasonable care of their health and well-being of another;

    • Foreseeability of injury,

    This means that the employer could reasonably be expected to see that this employee may suffer a psychiatric illness due to their work or their working environment. It is important to determine whether the employer could have foreseen the work could cause their staff a psychiatric illness rather than simply stress.

    • Breach of duty;

    It will need to be considered whether the employer should reasonably have done more to protect their employees. What is judged to be reasonable will depend on the circumstances of each case

    • Causation

    For this element of the claim to be satisfied, it must be shown that the breach of duty by the employer made a material contribution to knowingly cause a level of inappropriate stress.


    If you think you are overstressed at work you must report it to management (in writing and always keep a copy), suggest solutions to reduce it such as:-

    • Additional breaks;
    • Transferring to other work;
    • Redistributing the work;
    • Giving them some extra help for a while; and
    • Arranging treatment or counselling.


    The nature and extent of the work being done by an employee. 

    Employers should be more alert to employees who are overworked or in physically or mentally demanding jobs. It will be relevant whether others doing the same work are showing signs of stress or suffering illness due to their work. It is important to remember that the requirement of foreseeability relates to the individual in question, not the average worker. 


    Signs from the employee

    Factors to be taken into account would be more absences from work than is usual for that employee, physical or psychological complaints. Although there must be a good reason to think this is related to stress from work rather than other causes. 


    Whether an employer knows of some particular problem or vulnerability suffered by that employee

    If the employer is aware that the employee may be more likely to suffer a stress-related illness due to work, then this would be a factor that can be used to show the harm was foreseeable. Although an employer is usually entitled to presume that their employees are up to the usual pressures of the job. It is only where there is something particular about the employee or the job, they are doing which increases the chances of the employee suffering a psychiatric illness that the employer should think harder about how to protect them. 


    An employer is generally allowed to take what he is told by or on behalf of the employee at face value

    This means that in general if the employer is told that the employee is fine and has no problem in completing their work, whether that comes from the employee or someone who can speak on behalf of them then they are not required to probe further into the employee’s mental health. They can however suggest the employee sees a mental health professional if they are showing signs of stress.


    On the expiry of a medical note, the employer cannot automatically assume that the employee is fit to return to the same level of stress as before.

    Employers are expected to take steps to protect the employee from harm. For the harm to be judged to be foreseeable the indications that a person may suffer an injury due to the stress of their work must be plain enough for any reasonable employer to realise they should do something about it. 


    How we can help

    The main issue in regard to stress is proving that it lies with the employer, some stress may be due to your life outside work and the stress at work has simply “tipped you over the edge”, obviously if your co-workers are under a similar amount of stress to you with no issues then the issue would point to one where the main contributor is outside work (and hance not a legal matter).  Ultimately it would depend on whether you can state, with a fair degree of certainty that the problem was caused by an employer breaking their duty of care towards you, essentially the criteria for a claim depends on proving negligence.


    To quantify compensation our legal team will appoint consultants to maximise your compensation claim, some may be contracted by us (and therefore their cost would be classed as a disbursement). The claim will consider both general damages (compensation for the pain and suffering endured, and the loss of enjoyment of life), and special damages (compensation for any personal costs, potentially includes costs required in the future such as remedial surgery to remedy the mistake, mental suffering and so on).


    To initiate a case simply click on the link at the top of the page. activated by the link at the top of the page, should you wish to start a case the caseworker will send you the suitable payment link, please note they can only give generic advice, their role is to prepare your details for handling by our legal team and medical consultant and to act as your point of contact.

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