Every employee has probably felt the pressure of work-related stress at some point. Even if you love what you do, you may experience short-term pressure to meet a deadline or fulfil a demanding task. But when stress at work becomes chronic, it can severely interfere with your daily life and affect your physical and emotional health.
Your employer has a duty of care to take all reasonable measures to protect your health and well-being while you are in the workplace. That includes both trying to prevent you from being injured in an accident at work and protecting you from the likely causes of work-related stress.
Some of the most common reasons employees suffer from stress include excessive workloads, improper training, denial of rights, bullying, and harassment. If your employer has failed to take reasonable steps to ensure your working environment is safe, you might be able to make a stress at work claim.
Can I make a stress at work claim?
Work-related stress can severely affect your health and well-being and lead to symptoms like anxiety, fatigue, headaches, stomach problems and depression. Companies are legally required to undertake risk assessments to minimise the risk of stress-induced illness or injury to employees.
If the stress at work is affecting your physical and mental health, you should talk to your employer about it. They have to consider your welfare at work and prevent stress-related illness.
Your employer’s duties include taking reasonable steps based on advice from your GP or an occupational health specialist to resolve the root cause of your stress. If they are unwilling to do so, you might be able to make a work-related stress claim.
Although stress may be harder to prove than other workplace injuries or illnesses, you should not let this stop you from seeking legal advice. An experienced personal injury lawyer will ask you a few questions to determine whether you have a valid stress at work claim, such as:
- Was your employer aware of your difficulties?
- Did they take reasonable steps to help you manage your stress?
- Do you have medical proof of your condition?
- Did you suffer damages due to the stress at work?
- Was your condition diagnosed within the last three years?
If your solicitor believes you could claim, they will refer to statutory laws such as the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to prove your employer is liable to pay you stress at work compensation.
You could make a work stress claim against your employer even if your condition is due to bullying or harassment from other colleagues. Due to vicarious liability laws, employers can be held responsible for any wrongful act committed by one of their employees.
Under the Limitation Act 1980, you usually have three years to bring a stress at work claim after the date you receive a medical diagnosis. However, if you develop post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression and lose the mental capacity to claim, the time limit could be suspended until your recovery.
What are common causes of stress at work?
Work-related stress is defined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as an adverse reaction that people have to various demands placed on them at work, and it can be a very subjective experience. Suffering from stress in the workplace may entitle you to claim stress at work compensation.
While some people can cope with heavy burdens without experiencing stress at all, others may feel more easily overwhelmed, especially if they are dealing with a pre-existing mental health problem. Work-related stress can have significant consequences for both employees and employers and can affect productivity, staff turnover and the company’s reputation.
Various factors may contribute to stress at work, and typical working conditions that can lead to a work-related stress claim include:
- Improper training – the pressure of doing your job well with little or no training can feel overwhelming, leading to worries and anxiety;
- Workplace bullying and harassment – workplace bullying and harassment refers to any offensive, intimidating or insulting behaviour that creates a hostile environment, including physical or verbal abuse, malicious pranks and passive-aggressive treatment;
- Excessive workloads – having to do more than you can handle or being forced to work long hours can affect both your health and personal life;
- Denial of your rights – the violation of your rights, such as rest periods, days off, paid leave, toilet, coffee or lunch breaks, can deeply impact your mental and physical health;
- Micromanagement – being constantly scrutinised, monitored or told what to do can feel oppressive and put a lot of pressure on yourself;
- Impossible targets – being asked to achieve impracticable targets can be very stressful and negatively impact your well-being.
Other common factors that go hand-in-hand with work-related stress and may entitle you to claim compensation for stress at work include:
- Low salaries
- Few opportunities for advancement
- Lack of social support
- Fear of being laid off
- Lack of control over how you do your work
- Difficult working relationships
- Having mental health issues ignored or not taken seriously
- Poor relationships with colleagues
- Work that isn’t engaging or challenging
The list is not exhaustive, and many other circumstances can affect the health and well-being of employees. If you suffered because your employer failed in their duty to provide you with a safe working environment, you might be able to make a stress at work claim.
Everybody reacts differently to stress at work, and what is stressful for one person may not affect another. Actually, many people may benefit from a certain amount of pressure in the workplace, which could keep them motivated and give them a sense of achievement.
Too much stress, however, can begin to feel unbearable and lead to mental, physical and behavioural symptoms. The most common signs and symptoms of work-related stress include:
- Headaches or consistent migraines
- Stomach ache
- Dizziness and nausea
- Loss of sex drive
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest pain or an elevated heartbeat
- Hair and weight loss
Emotional and mental symptoms:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Panic attacks
- Anxiety or depression
- A drop in performance and atypical mistakes
- A rise in complaints and grievances
- Reacting differently to people or certain situations
- Getting into arguments or conflicts with colleagues
- Using alcohol or drugs to cope
- Social withdrawal
- Being irritable and snappy
- Eating too little or too much
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Avoiding certain places or people
Stress is subjective and cannot be measured with tests. A healthcare provider may only use questionnaires to determine your stress level and how it affects your life. If you suffer from chronic stress, they may also evaluate and treat any physical symptoms, such as high blood pressure.
If you are affected by stress at work, your employer must take reasonable measures to remove or reduce its cause and support you with recovery. If they fail in their duty to protect your health and safety, you may be able to make a work stress claim.
What should I do if I’m suffering from stress at work?
Stress itself is not an illness, but excessive and prolonged stress can lead to a mental or physical illness, such as depression or high blood pressure. Work-related stress is, unfortunately, widespread and can affect anyone in any job.
Your employer has duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to protect your well-being in the workplace. If they put you under too much pressure and do not take reasonable measures to protect your physical and mental health, you may be able to claim compensation for stress at work.
If you believe your health and personal life are suffering due to work-related stress, there are several steps you should take, including:
- Prioritise your health and speak to your GP or an occupational health specialist
- Talk with your manager, HR department or trade union about your concerns
- Write down how you are feeling every day to remember how stress has affected you
- Turn to co-workers for support and lean on your friends and family members
- Use time and task management strategies to reduce stress at work
- Consult your employer and tell them what specific factors make your job stressful
- Clarify your job description, duties and responsibilities
- If burnout seems inevitable, take some time off
Employers must recognise the signs and symptoms of stressed employees and act to reduce or eliminate the causes. They have a duty to implement reasonable changes, such as reducing your workload or providing you with additional training sessions to help you recover.
If you received a medical diagnosis and your employer has failed to take reasonable measures to meet your needs, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. Your solicitor will look into your case and let you know if you can make a stress at work compensation claim.
How do I claim compensation for stress at work?
If your employer failed to take reasonable measures to prevent you from developing a physical or mental illness due to stress at work, you might be eligible for compensation. The first thing you should do to start a work stress claim is to contact a personal injury solicitor for a free consultation.
Your solicitor will offer advice and support at every step of the claims process and help you gather as much evidence as possible to support your claim for stress at work compensation. This could include:
- Medical notes that confirm your diagnosis, the treatments you received and your prognosis;
- Evidence of stress and stress-related illnesses in other employees;
- Photographic evidence of any stress-inducing factors in the workplace;
- Any communication such as SMS texts, emails, photographs or videos that are proof you were subject to workplace bullying or harassment;
- Contact details of co-workers who could give a statement to confirm working conditions that led to your workplace stress;
- Statements from friends and family about how your work affected your health and well-being;
- Your notes regarding your duties and responsibilities and how they caused you to suffer from stress at work;
- Any correspondence such as emails between you and your employer regarding your concerns;
- A copy of an occupational health report, if a specialist reviewed your working conditions;
- A police report if you have been physically assaulted at work;
- Financial documents such as receipts, bank statements and invoices to prove any financial losses and expenses you incurred due to the effects of stress.
Once you have all the relevant evidence to claim compensation for stress at work, your solicitor will send a letter of claim to your employer, informing them of your intentions to take legal action. If they admit liability, you may negotiate an out-of-court settlement for your pain, suffering and financial losses.
If your employer denies responsibility for your symptoms, your solicitor will issue court proceedings. Negotiations will usually continue until the trial date, and more than 95% of all claims settle without going before a judge.
What should my employer do if I’m suffering from stress?
According to the Health and Safety Executive, 822,000 employees suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2020/21. This prevalence rate is 2,480 per 100,000 workers, accounting for 50% of all work-related ill health.
The broad industry categories of education, human health and social work activities and public administration and defence had significantly higher rates of ill health due to work-related stress than the average for all industries.
Under statutory laws such as the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers must:
- Carry out regular assessments of risks to the health and safety of employees;
- Control the identified risks and adapt the work to the individual;
- Give appropriate training and instructions to employees;
- Put adequate health and safety measures in place;
- Take into account the age, experience and psychical condition of each employee;
- Provide health and safety training and supervision.
If you are suffering from stress at work and it starts to affect your health and well-being, your employer should make reasonable adjustments to help you manage your symptoms. These may include:
- Reduce your working hours
- Provide additional training or supervision
- Reallocate some of your work to others
- Keep the workload suitable to your abilities
- Assign reasonable work shifts and ensure sufficient rest between them
- Keep job demands reasonable
- Provide manageable deadlines
- Arrange for confidential counselling to support your recovery
If your employer has been made aware of your troubles but failed to take any action to reduce the risks to your health, you may be able to make a work-related stress claim. You could still claim compensation for stress at work even if you have stopped working for the responsible company.
Under the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969, most employers are required to have insurance against liability for personal injuries to their employees, so your work stress claim will not leave them out of pocket. Furthermore, unfair dismissal laws state that your employer cannot sack you for taking any legal action against them.
If you have a valid claim for stress at work compensation, your solicitor will consider the pain and suffering you endured and your financial losses to work out a fair settlement. This will include:
Special damages or compensation for any out-of-pocket expenses you incurred, which could include:
- Medical expenses related to prescriptions and treatments
- Cost of counselling and psychological support
- Travel costs to and from therapy and medical appointments
- Lost wages during recovery
- Future loss of earnings due to the long-term impact of a work-related stress illness
- Care costs if you need support and assistance during recovery
General damages are awarded for subjective, personal losses, such as:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional distress
- Psychological and psychiatric trauma
- Loss of consortium and social interactions
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of prospects and enjoyment of life
The compensation you may receive if your work stress claim is successful will depend on all the above and other factors related to the severity of your stress and its effects on your life.
The Judicial College sets out guidelines for compensation awards for general damages caused by stress at work. Based on their guidelines, you could receive:
- £1,400 to £5,500 for minor symptoms caused by stress, with no long-term health problems
- £5,500 to £19,070 for mild cases that may affect a person’s ability to cope with life for a period
- £19,070 to £54,830 for moderately severe psychiatric injuries with long-term or permanent effects on the victim
- £54,830 to £115,730 for severe issues caused by work-related stress, such as inability to return to work or have social interactions, with a very poor prognosis
For a free consultation with a legal adviser, call 0800 678 1410 or enter your details into our online claim form to receive a call back. They can let you know if you may be eligible to make a stress at work claim and give you an estimate of how much compensation you might be entitled to receive.