"One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important." --Bertrand Russell, British philosopher 1872-1970
Approximately one in five people find their work either very or extremely stressful and every year in the U.K. over 21 million sick days are lost because of stress.
Sometimes stress is not a bad thing and can have a positive affect in the work place and for employees. Oak trees grow strongest in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure. Stress at work can make us feel motivated, keep us happy and focused.
There is no such thing as a stress free job.
However, sometimes stress can be very bad for an employee and can affect that person’s health. It can lead to people taking time off work, sometimes weeks or months. It can affect their confidence, their happiness and well being. It can cause lasting psychological and or physical injury. The issue is how the employee is exposed to stress in the workplace and whether or not the employer has broken it’s duty of care to the employee causing the employee to suffer psychological or physical injury.
"Stress is like spice - in the right proportion it enhances the flavor of a dish. Too little produces a bland, dull meal; too much may choke you"
The Courts have set out very clear guidelines of the law so we can now more easily tell whether a person might be suffering from work related stress for which the employer might be found to be liable.
The case was Sutherland v Hatton. It was a House of Lords decision back in 2002 and they took 4 appeal cases from the lower Court of Appeal and bundled the cases together and were heard at the same time. The House of Lords set out the ingredients that need to be in the mix for a person to win a stress at work claim.
Of the 4 cases they considered 2 involved teachers, 1 was a local authority clerical worker and the fourth a factory worker who all argued that because of excessive workload placed upon them by their employer they developed a psychological illness .
In order to prove a stress at work claim, a person must show that he / she has suffered a physical or psychological illness which is attributed to stress at work and where the employer should have foreseen indications of impending harm that were plain enough to see so that they should have done something about it to prevent the employee coming to harm as a result of the stress.
A classic example is where the employee says that he / she was given too much work to do or was not provided with the appropriate help and assistance. The employee must have suffered a physical or psychiatric injury and must show that his / her employer had a duty of care , failed to take the care which can reasonably be expected in the circumstances and as a result the employee suffered injury (damages) .
Other more specific examples can include bullying , being picked on, humiliated, singled out differently or harassed. In these cases, the employee might have more than one potential remedy against the employer.
If a person has suffered injury due to stress at work this can be very serious.
It can cause a person to suffer longstanding consequences such as psychological injury, low self esteem, depression or anxiety. As a result a person might lose pay, their job, future job prospects and unhappiness. This means he / she might be entitled to seek compensation not only for their injury but to cover loss of earnings including potential future earnings. This can be substantial compensation in appropriate cases.
If you feel that you might have suffered stress in the work place, please feel free to call us. Don’t be worried or intimidated. We have many years of experience in these types of claims and offer a free no obligation telephone consultation to try to get to the bottom of your work related problems and see if you might have a claim.