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:

‘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.