We’re going to take a look in this post at work-related stress. This is a pervasive problem in the workplace but, unfortunately, there is too little knowledge of what work-related stress is and the problems it can cause. In doing so we’re going to look at the following:
- What is work-related stress?
- Is work-related stress an illness?
- Can I obtain a remedy if I’ve suffered from work-related stress?
- What should I do if I think I’m suffering from work-related stress?
What is work-related stress?
The Health and Safety Executive defines work-related stress as “an adverse reaction a person has to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed upon them”. Work-related stress is widespread and common, constituting 40% of all work-related illnesses in 2010. There were – according to the Labour Force Survey – 211,000 new cases of work-related stress in 2009/10.
Is work-related stress an illness?
Work-related stress is not defined as an illness but is rather a “gateway” to other impairments which can be classed as illnesses or disabilities if it is left untreated. Such impairments or disabilities include heart disease, anxiety and/or depression. As work-related stress is not itself an illness it is not possible to define it as a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and it would therefore not be possible to claim for disability-related discrimination if you were simply suffering from work-related stress. However, if the work-related stress causes other problems (such as, for example, heart disease) then you may be able to pursue your employer for discrimination or negligence (if you suffer any harm as a result).
Can I obtain a remedy if I’ve suffered from work-related stress?
If you have been suffering from work-related stress then the most common type of claim is a claim for the common law tort of negligence in the civil courts against your employer. In order to succeed in a claim for negligence due to work-related stress you would have to show that:
- A duty of care exists (there is a duty of care that exists between an employer and an employee)
- That there is a duty for the employer not to cause unreasonable or foreseeable injury to an employee by stress
- That the duty of care has been breached – that the employer failed to assess the risk and/or react to the risk as a reasonable employer would
- That the breach of the duty of care has caused you loss (whether this is injury to your person, loss of earnings etc.)
- That your employer has failed to demonstrate that there is a viable defence
What should I do if I think I’m suffering from work-related stress?
If you’ve suffered from work-related stress then you should contact a personal injury solicitor to obtain specialist advice on whether you may have a claim in the civil courts. Further, it may be worth obtaining employment law advice from a specialist employment solicitor if you’ve been discriminated against if you’re suffering from a disability due to work-related stress. Work-related stress can cause severe personal and professional problems and it is best to attempt to remedy this is you have suffered some form of loss due to your employer’s negligence or discrimination.