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.
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.
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.
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