Can I claim compensation for stress at work?

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The number of people calling our legal helpline to ask, ‘Can I claim compensation for stress at work?’ has risen significantly in recent years.

A survey has found that more than a third of the UK workforce now experiences anxiety, depression, or stress. Those surveyed came from a range of junior and senior roles, showing that psychological problems from work are not restricted to the stereotypical high powered executive that perhaps comes to mind when we think about stress at work.

The survey, was conducted on behalf of management consultancy firm PwC and included 2,000 respondents. Of these, 34% said they had a problem with their health and wellbeing. 39% of those employees surveyed said that they had taken time off work or reduced their responsibilities due to their health. This has a knock-on effect on the economy and productivity.

Worryingly, almost a quarter of those surveyed (23%) said that they did not think their employer takes their wellbeing seriously. Of those who needed time off work, 39% said they did not feel comfortable telling their employer about the issue.

Previous research by the mental health charity Mind found that nearly half of all public sector workers have been forced to take time off because of problems with their mental health.

The prime minister recently promised that mental health legislation would be reformed and the Queen’s speech said that the government would “ensure that mental health is prioritised in the NHS”.

However NHS managers have warned that mental health services are being undermined by rising demand and staff shortages.

So, to return to the  question, ‘Can I claim compensation for stress at work?’ we need to consider the legal duties that an employer owes to its employees.

An employer can be legally liable for damage caused to an employee’s psychological health where that employer has acted in breach of its duty of care. Employers have a responsibility to look after their employee’s health and this includes their mental health. If the employer knew or should have known that there was impending harm to their employee’s health that was brought about by their employment they can be held legally liable for any injuries suffered if they fail to take action to safeguard that employee.

The law relating to stress at work claims is however extremely complex. Employers wont be held responsible for stress that they cannot have foreseen. Nor is an employer liable for an employee’s underlying psychological issues. And a claim would not succeed if there was no action the employers could have taken to prevent it. There must be a clear causal connection between the stress illness and the employer’s failure to act in a reasonable manner when they were aware of the risk.

If you are among those asking, ‘Can I claim compensation for stress at work?’ and you feel that your employer could and should have protected you then please call our free legal helpline. We will be able to offer guidance on whether you may be entitled to pursue a claim for compensation. Give us a call on 0808 139 1590 or email us details.