COVID-19 at work, the new rules, and you

With new government advice surrounding getting more people back into work coming into place at the beginning of August, the risk of accidents at work will become more important to us all. Coupled with the fact that workplaces will need to add more health and safety measures to ensure we are all kept safe from COVID-19 at work, employers have even more of a responsibility to make sure we are all kept safe at work, and with the added pressure of having to play catch up for a number of businesses, the risk of accidents could actually be heightened whilst this happens.

Workplaces must be kept safe for workers now more than ever. There have been extra health and safety measures put in place in work spaces up and down the country, including adding more PPE for staff, making sure that everything is kept clean and sanitised for everyone’s safety, and extra risk assessments being carried out, but, unfortunately, these extra health and safety measures can not guarantee that accidents at work won’t happen.

The new rules surrounding workplace safety, whilst similar, can also differ based on what industry you work in, for example, offices and building sites have different rules, but can both still present their own risks of accidents, even with everyone adhering to the social distancing rules. The new rules also, unfortunately, may not stop the usual accidents at work happening either, and so, as much as we are responsible for keeping ourselves safe, it is the same, if not even more, for our employers to ensure we are kept safe and well, as they have a duty of care to all of their employees.

Additionally, with all the new guidance surrounding working safely and getting people back into work, combined with increased workloads for staff returning, there may also be a rise in people feeling stressed at work. Stress at work is already something that a lot of people suffer with, and, due to increased job pressures post-lockdown, this will no doubt get worse for people who are suffering. We can also help if you feel you are suffering from an added sense of stress at work, for further information on stress at work claims contact us today.

So, what happens if you are unfortunate enough to have an accident whilst at work?

Here at The Compensation Experts, we are well placed to give you all the help you need. We work with solicitors who deal with accidents at work all the time, so we have a wealth of experience dealing with them. Contact us today to see if we can help you with a potential accident at work claim.

Work Stress Claims: The Five Types

A work stress claim is increasingly common in law, particularly as UK employers and tribunal results compel us to prioritise mental well-being.

What the government says about a work stress claim

The numbers bear out that the amount of people suffering from stress at work is rising. In an annual report on Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain, 2019:

  • Over 600,000 workers suffer from work-related stress, depression or anxiety;
  • These conditions led to the loss of nearly 13 million working days;
  • New case incidence rates amount to 740 out of every 100,000 workers;
  • These conditions account for:
    • Firstly, 54% of all working days lost due to ill health.
    • Additionally, 44% of all work-related ill health cases.

How (and what type of) industries are affected

As personal injury solicitors all know, more than one set of truths can co-exist at the same time. Such is the nature of incidents of work-related stress.

  • Firstly: incidents of stress in the workplace do not discriminate by sector. In actuality, all industries are touched by stress-related illnesses – at a rate just shy of 15 out of every 1,000 UK workers.
  • Secondly: some industries are particularly affected by this. Industries like human health/social work, education and public administration/defence have seen more than 50,000 cases of work stress.

However, there are still thousands of incidents across other industries. These extend from transport & logistics to manufacturing to accredited professionals, and other lines of work in between.

Ergo, from an employee’s perspective, what does all of this mean to your well-being? In short, you can throw out what kind of work a person does when it comes to work-related stress. Because the true measure of an employee’s well-being in a work environment affects different personalities in different ways.

So what kind of actions trigger a claim for work-related stress?

In short, stress at work compensation can be driven by a variety of different triggers or activities. If you think you’ve suffered from a kind of work-related illness or injury, it’s always important to understand what the law says about it.

Below are five categories identified by HSE that can unleash symptoms of stress or even force stress compensation claims. The percentages account how commonly these categories are assigned as a reason for work stress issues.

Workload (44%)

There’s a negative stigma around reducing one’s own workload. The unfortunate reason for that is because people want to take on more as a badge of honour. On the surface, it enables trust from bosses, displays one’s capability and shows that a person is able to work under pressure.

In actuality, excessive workloads (perhaps coupled with unrealistic deadlines or unreasonable expectations or KPIs) can also exacerbate a wealth of different health issues and turn you into something less than a colleague. It diminishes your human value in the eyes of co-workers and line managers. Also, in the wrong working environment, it reduces your voice and might even create the image of a pushover.

What the experts say:

Julie Morgenstern, productivity expert and author of Never Check Email in the Morning, told Harvard Business Review:

“In the bottom of your belly is this feeling that if you can’t handle the work, there’s someone else who can; you feel dispensable.

“The natural tendency is to think, ‘I am not working hard enough, smart enough, or efficiently enough. I should be able to handle this.’ So you suffer in silence.”

Morgenstern advises workers to speak up and take ownership of their workload limitations. Turning down a request or simply pointing out what you’re up against, she says, increases your credibility.

“Bosses want their employees to speak up if there is anything that’s keeping them from performing at peak levels.”

Furthermore, this is a great way to test your line manager or a boss as to whether you might be stuck in a climate ripe for a work stress claim. If you feel as if you don’t have bosses who reflect her description, their behaviour should be noted.

For a compensation claim, it will be critical to have examples (or even complaints) on the record and documented.

Lack of support (14%)

In many ways, the lack of support catches a variety of different behaviours or examples of neglect. Poor support from management is most commonly cited by HSE, but there can be other examples, too. For example, the workplace might fail you when it comes to providing:

  • Adequate reporting mechanisms;
  • Defining your rights as a worker sufficiently;
  • Education and information regarding expectations;
  • Negligent human resources capabilities.

We encourage you to take charge of your role if you feel like management is not being supportive or informative. Give them a chance to rectify or simply clarify expectations, KPIs or gain control of the work.

As ever, be vigilant, document examples and raise issues regarding support. If management lets you down, you can better prove that when the time comes, you gave management a chance to fix the problem

Violence, threats or bullying (13%)

We’ve said before in this space that workplace bullying can’t hide behind the guise of harmless banter. Furthermore, it leaves private and public sector organisations alike exposed and vulnerable.

Focus more widely, and employers are well aware that mental well-being is on the same level as physical well-being.

  • First, both are subject to personal injury or illness matters;
  • Second, both require the same vigilance to combat;
  • Finally, both require buy-in from management down to the shop floor.

That said, some workplaces are more efficient in dealing with violence, threats and bullying than others. Regardless of how management handles it, you don’t have to take it as an employee. Bullying encompasses a wide berth of unwanted behaviours.

The feelings that bullying can engender

According to ACAS, you’ve been bullied if you’re left to feel:

  • Frightened or intimidated;
  • Put down, disrespected or degraded;
  • Uncomfortable as a result of being made fun of, and;
  • Upset, insulted or offended.

Firstly, it’s important to know that whenever bullying occurs in the workplace, you don’t have to suffer in silence. There are people you can talk to and ways to address the behaviours you’re witnessing. Additionally, you can do this either face to face or with a superior or assistant.

But as ever, it is critical that when an incident – be it a one-off or as a common occurrence – does happen, you record the incident. If you do end up filing a work stress claim, recording an incident and details such as the people present, any evidence, date(s) and time(s) can significantly strengthen the validity of your claims.

Changes at work (8%)

With regard to changes at work, there are a few different connotations. For example, a new style of management can fall under this category. So can brand new technology or work content that changes the nature of the job altogether.

HSE points out that one cause of stress at work is when employees:

are not engaged when a business is undergoing change.”

Consider mergers and acquisitions, which have become increasingly common. Accordingly, change is inherent and disruptions to the new working practices can be expected. So management owes it to employees to inform them. Done right, they should endeavour to show employees how they benefit from the change.

Use change management programmes as another example. For this, management has to include employees, because the change is affecting them directly. There is a duty of care that management needs to take with this to prevent injury at work and reduce levels of stress.

If it isn’t, the change management project will ultimately fail. After all, the main idea should be to enable valued employees to cope with a more efficient system. Otherwise, there would be no need to change in the first place.

Other (21%)

Psychiatric injury or illness can occur in several other random ways. Some examples may include:

  • Not understanding your role or responsibilities fully;
  • Inability to control the way they do their work;
  • In some industries, even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

But even if it’s not in the list above, we would urge employers to seek out stressful scenarios and get in front of potential red flags in their line of work. As we wrote in a recent post about protecting the mental health of staff:

All employers, whether it is the NHS, a private healthcare provider or employers in other sectors, have a duty of care to protect both the physical and mental well-being of its employees. 

This responsibility is enshrined in law – The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and it’s resulting regulatory updates – and all employers have to adhere to it. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

About the Compensation Experts and the Work Stress Claim

This post is part of our ongoing series covering the issues to understand a workplace injury or work-induced psychiatric illness. Our goal is to keep you informed on the latest issues and risks involved with workplace injury claims. From understanding legal fees for a claim to getting in front of long-term complications, The Compensation Experts can help.

Be sure to read more about this topic, including:

Four Common Workplace Hazards To Be Aware Of

No matter your place of work, there are a variety of workplace hazards that you should be aware of. With these in mind, you should be able to work comfortably knowing what workplace hazards to look out for.

What is a hazard in the workplace?

A workplace hazard is any physical or mental obstacle, tool, or vehicle that can cause danger or personal injury to an employee in the workplace. There are numerous types of workplace hazards, too many to list here, but being aware of the concept and the most common types will go a long way to avoiding workplace accidents.

Common workplace hazards can put you at risk, and take you away from the job.

Common workplace hazards

Regardless of your place of work, there will always be onsite workplace hazards that you should be aware of. While your employer must minimise the risk of workplace hazards, you should always be aware of their potential.

Some workplace hazards may be physical dangers that crop up in your workplace environment, others might be physical injuries you could suffer as a result of poor work posture and habits.

A few examples of common workplace hazards could include:

  • Loose objects in the work environments
  • Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) from bad typing posture
  • Bags poking out from under desks

Of course, there are far more serious workplace hazards that you should be aware of too. So, to avoid potential hazards in the workplace, it’s always a good idea to carry out a risk assessment of your work area when possible.

Below are four risk assessment boxes you can tick to help reduce workplace risk, increase health and safety, and prevent unnecessary injuries in the workplace.

1. Physical Hazards in the work environment

Even in an office environment, it’s really important to look out for potential physical hazards in the workplace that might cause injury. But in busy spaces, it’s even more important.

With warehouse work, for example, forklifts, equipment on the go, blocked entrances, and obstructed pathways all create various workplace hazards that can pose a risk to you.

How to prevent physical hazards at work

Here are a few other potential physical hazards in the workplace, and things you should bear in mind to lessen their risks:

  • Overloading the top of your cages/containers creates unnecessary risks. Such oversights can set off sprinklers or restrict access through low-hanging doorways.
  • Cords and wires require frequent review and risk assessment. Loose cords can slow down your environment and you should always replace frayed cords, which can create an unnecessary health and safety nightmare.
  • If possible, commit to reducing the number of confined spaces you need to operate in to avoid clutter.
  • Ensure you have a record of any safety equipment’s expiration dates and carry out regular reviews to ensure they’re up to scratch.

2. Harassment, bullying and psychosocial hazards

This is perhaps one of the most overlooked workplace hazards, but linking mental well-being and physical well-being is an important piece of assessing hazardous workplace conditions.

Nowadays, we’re far more aware of the effects of harassment, sexual misconduct, and bullying in the workplace. If an action can alter an employee’s mental well-being, that action needs to be addressed as a damaging hazard.

How to prevent psychological workplace hazards

Here are a few common psychological workplace hazards to be aware of, and potential solutions:

  • Develop thorough, comprehensive policies to deal with each kind of psychosocial hazard.
  • Make certain the process to report a violation and maintain compliance does not create new levels of workplace hostility.
  • Take precautions to ensure unreasonable workloads aren’t being assigned to single individuals.
  • Ensure there is buy-in to handling psychosocial hazards from the top of the workplace organisation down. As a result, on-site buy-in from teams will be more likely to happen.
  • Above all, you should treat any psychosocial and on-site mental hazards like physical hazards. Both can lead to punitive and reputational damage to your worksite.

3. Ergonomics hazards and falls from heights

Trips, slips, and falls are some of the most widely encompassing safety hazards. Moreover, it’s a highly relevant one in the UK. Between 2018 and 2019, the HSE reported some harrowing figures regarding ergonomic hazards, including:

  • In 2017/18, over 110,000 non-fatal workplace injuries were due to handling, lifting, or carrying heavy objects.
  • Falling from height caused 40 workplace deaths.
  • Moving vehicles such as forklifts caused 30 fatalities.
  • Coming into contact with dangerous machinery resulted in 14 deaths.

How to prevent ergonomic hazards at work

To ensure that these potential hazards in the workplace can be avoided, the following are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Educate your workers in safer working practices and aim to keep it simple. Inform your workers, but don’t overload them with information.
  • Find safer, perhaps even more practical, scenarios that remove unnecessary work at height scenarios, such as poles for window washing.
  • Workers should have a say in addressing manual handling practices that:
    • Reduce strain
    • Increase regard for safety, and
    • Minimise burdensome workloads

4. Chemical Hazards

Out of all the common hazards in the workplace, chemicals injuries are the most dangerous. They can also be incredibly hard to spot in some scenarios. Chemical hazards are defined as any “hazardous substance that can cause harm to your employees.”

Symptoms of chemical hazards can include skin irritation, occupational asthma, dizziness, and headaches. But that’s just the beginning. Therefore, you should err on the side of caution by having as few chemicals on-site as possible.

Too often, the risk of chemical hazards increases simply because they go for a long stretch of time without being used. Thus, an atmosphere of ignorance and underappreciation can set in.

How to prevent chemical hazard accidents

To help mitigate the risks associated with on-site chemicals, you can do some of the following:

  • Strive to have as few chemicals on-site as possible – it makes life safer, reduces removal expense, and minimises the risk of breaking the law.
  • Create and maintain a thorough inventory of the on-site chemicals needed for your warehouse, especially regarding expiration dates.
  • Along similar lines, ensure you order only what you need. Chemicals that fall out of date aren’t easy to get rid of, and an overabundance of them can lead to fines and penalties.

There are, of course, many more common hazards in the workplace that you should keep an eye out for no matter your place of work. When you sit down to write your risk assessment, take time to think about every common workplace hazard you could include.

And if you have suffered an accident at work due to common hazards in the workplace, you may very well be entitled to compensation. Get in touch with the team at The Compensation Experts today to see what your claim might be worth.

About the Compensation Experts and Common Workplace Hazards

This post is part of our ongoing series covering the issues to understand a workplace injury or work-induced psychiatric illness. Our goal is to keep you informed on the latest issues and risks involved with workplace injury claims.

Be sure to read more about this topic, including:

‘National Sickie Day’ highlights a culture that causes workplace illnesses and injuries

It was interesting to note the coverage the so-called ‘National Sickie Day’ received earlier this week.

While the BBC played it with a very straight bat, other media sources took a more light-hearted approach with both The Sun and The Daily Star focusing their coverage on what they considered to be the weirdest and worst excuses for employees calling in sick.

What the BBC chose to focus on is certainly of concern though, with the broadcaster highlighting a survey showing around 8.6 million UK workers took sick days last year because they found their job “too painful” with 12 million workers going into work while genuinely sick. The survey, conducted by Kantar, was of 1,246 working adults and was then weighed to reflect the wider working population of almost 33 million people.

While you may arguably need to take the researchers’ claims that work culture, colleagues and workloads were to blame with a pinch of salt to an extent given the numerical claims have been weighed, other sources do support such claims, as the latest data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) shows that 23.5 million working days were lost in the 2018/19 financial year due to work-related ill health.

It should also be noted that, according to the HSE figures, a further 4.7 million working days were lost in the last financial year due to non-fatal work injuries.

The issue

We would argue then that we have an issue in this country with work-related sickness and injuries. In particular, we would say that the psychological effect of UK workplaces needs to be reviewed – we say that as, when digging down into the HSE figures regarding the number of working days lost, stress, depression and anxiety account for the majority of the 23.5 million days lost last year at 12.8 million. In addition, those on sick leave from work with stress, depression and anxiety are also off for longer, taking 21.2 days off work on average compared to an overall average of 15.1 days off when accounting for all work-related ill health and non-fatal work injuries.

It may also be that the tone taken by the likes of The Sun and The Daily Star – arguably a mocking tone that makes fun of those who call in sick – when reporting on something like a supposed ‘National Sickie Day’ contributes to the issues too. While those articles are clearly aimed at making fun at those people who use frivolous reasons to ‘throw a sickie’, it could be argued that they contribute to a culture in this country where people who take time off work are viewed with an underlaying air of suspicion. Because of this, people – 12 million of them according to the Kantar research – then turn up for work when they are genuinely ill. It is because of this, we would argue, that we have seen a rise in so-called ‘presenteeism’ in the UK in recent years, as people feel they have to carry on even when they are not fit to work as they will otherwise face accusations that they are ‘putting it on’ or are ‘weak’.

It could be said that this kind of attitude, and employers allowing it to flourish, rather than addressing the issues that caused 23.5 million working days to be lost in the last financial year creates a toxic work culture. It also speaks volumes to us that the happiest workforces and most productive economies in the world, such as those in the Scandinavian countries, are those where workers feel they can take time off work when they are sick without fear of persecution or loss of opportunities.

How to reduce workplace illness and injury

We need to get away from this culture of presenteeism and of not dealing with the issues we are facing at work then. If you ignore a problem, it will not go away. Regardless of whether it is a niggling injury caused by your work or negative comments from a colleague that are upsetting you, if you ignore the problem, it will continue to fester and get worse.

For example, if you are in a role that requires manual lifting and you pull a muscle in your back while lifting something that you find too heavy, that pain isn’t going to go away by you then continuing to lift things at work that you find too heavy. The pain is going to get worse and worse to the point that you will need to take time off work and your general quality of life may also be seriously affected too.

Similarly, if your employer allocates you an unreasonable amount of work that you struggle to get through and this causes you undue stress and anxiety, that is not acceptable and something should be said as it will eventually cause you to burn out. In this regard, if you allow your employer to get away with allocating an unreasonable amount of work to you, it will embolden them and makes it more likely to do it with other members of staff too.

Ultimately, employers are legally obliged to take all reasonable steps to protect both their employees’ physical and mental health. If they don’t and it leads to you suffering a workplace injury or work-related illness, including stress, depression and anxiety, then you may be able to claim compensation from them for any medical expenses you incur or loss of earnings you suffer as a result of needing to take time off work.

How we can help

At The Compensation Experts, we work with specialist legal firms who have a proven track record in successful workplace illness and injury compensation claims. Initially, one of our advisors with have a chat with you to find out how you came to be ill or injured. Once this is done, they will advise you whether you may have grounds for a successful claim. As a part of this, we might also obtain medical reports to help determine the strength of your case. This is all done on a free no-obligation basis. If it is felt you may have a successful claim, we will then match you with the firm who best suits the circumstances of your case. This means we and the legal firms we work with are well-placed to help you get the maximum amount of compensation.

If you have suffered a workplace injury, do not hesitate to get in touch with us via our website or by calling 0161 413 8763.

Doctor burnout rate findings show need for employers to protect mental health of staff

Yesterday, our partner brand, The Medical Negligence Experts, wrote about the results of a survey published by The British Medical Journal (BMJ).

The survey, the largest published study of its kind according to The BMJ, features responses from 1,651 doctors and shows that 31% of the doctors surveyed have high levels of burnout with the same number also having compassion fatigue. Furthermore, a quarter of the doctors surveyed said they were experiencing a significant amount of stress. Perhaps unsurprisingly, A&E doctors were considerably more burnt-out and stressed than doctors in other medical areas.

Given we have recently written about the rise of occupational stress and the increasing amount of sick leave Britain’s workers are taking due to stress, anxiety and depression caused by their work, what particularly piqued our interest was that, in its report of the BMJ survey, The Guardian also highlighted a separate survey conducted by researchers at The University of Liverpool. This survey found that almost one in five doctors who deliver babies have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from witnessing distressing events in their work, with two-thirds of the 1,095 UK obstetricians and gynaecologists surveyed saying they had encountered traumatic situations during labour and birth. In particular, the University’s researchers found that PTSD was leading to staffing problems on maternity units because doctors go on sick leave.

What employers need to do

All employers, whether it is the NHS, a private healthcare provider or employers in other sectors, have a duty of care to protect both the physical and mental well-being of its employees. This responsibility is enshrined in law – The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and its resulting regulatory updates – and all employers have to adhere to it. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

It is vital then that employers in sectors where the staff can be particularly susceptible to such things as stress, burnout and compassion fatigue, such as all four branches of the emergency services and public-facing roles in the civil services, keep an eye on the mental well-being of its employees and help them to put strategies in place to deal with the pressures of their roles.

It is heartening then that many NHS trusts have responded to stress and burnout among staff by taking steps such as offering yoga, pilates and physiotherapy sessions and encouraging staff to take regular breaks.

Clearly, more needs to be done though given that stress levels among doctors are now at their highest-ever levels, according to The BMJ’s survey findings.

How we can help

At The Compensation Experts, we work with specialist solicitors who have a lot of experience making successful compensation claims against employers who have not done everything reasonably possible to prevent their staff from succumbing to burnout and mental health issues.

This means we and the legal firms we work with are well-placed to help you get the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to. After your initial free, no-obligation consultation with our advisors about the aspects of your role that have caused you to develop issues with your mental health, we will match you with the firm who best suits the circumstances of your potential claim.

If you have had to take sick leave from work due to mental health issues and feel this was because of the working environment or certain demands specific to your role that your employer has not done enough to help you combat the effects of, you may be entitled to compensation. To find out if you may have a claim, do not hesitate to get in touch with The Compensation Experts via the contact form on our website or by calling 0161 413 8765.