The terms stress at work or work related stress are becoming words we as personal injury lawyers increasingly hear. In 2018/19 almost half of the working days lost due to work related ill health were a result of stress, anxiety and depression.
What is Work Related Stress?
The HSE defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them”. ‘
Employees can suffer work related stress or mental illness as a consequence of many different factors. Issus such as workplace bullying, difficulties adjusting to organisational change a workplace, being unable to cope with the demands of a job or changing demands of a job, insufficient support from management, being unable to control they way work is done (sometimes where employees are asked to do things in a manner they feel is unsafe) and not having their role and responsibilities properly set out for them are common reasons given by employees for work related stress.
What does my employer have to do to protect me from Work Related stress?
All employers have a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of their employees and this incudes injuries to mental health caused by workplace stress. However, stress affects different people in different ways. What causes stress to one person may not cause stress to another. Skill and experience, age, disability and issues outwith the workplace can all effect how an individual employee reacts to stress. Therefore, an employer only requires to take active steps where they either knew or ought to know that job they require an employee to do causes not only stress but a risk that the employee might suffer a psychiatric illness as a reaction to that stress.
Can I make a claim against my employer for work related stress?
Claims for damages for work related stress can be very difficult to prove. You must prove:
- You have suffered a recognised psychiatric condition such as depression or anxiety. Simply feeling “stressed” would not be enough.
- The condition was caused by your working environment
- Your employer knew or ought to have known that there was a risk you might suffer a psychiatric illness as a consequence of stress at work. This could be that there were obvious things happening in the workplace which ought to have put your employer “on notice” or that you were previously absent due to a psychiatric condition and insufficient support was put in place following your return to work
- Your employer did not do all that was reasonable in the circumstances to keep you safe from a work related psychiatric injury
- If your employer had done all that was reasonable in the circumstances you would not have suffered a psychiatric injury caused by work related stress.
What can I do if I am suffering from stress at work?
If you are suffering stress at work do not suffer in silence. Where you can, make sure your employers is aware so they can put support in place for you. Speak to someone, a friend, spouse, partner, GP about it. Helpful advice can be found on the NHS website and there are many other organisation who can assist you in getting your mental health back to a better place.