Stress can be both the cause and symptom of problems at work. If not dealt with properly, it can lead to claims both in the Employment Tribunal and the County Court.
How big is the problem? The latest figures from the HSE show that 15.4 million working days were lost due to stress in the last year. When someone is affected, they are off for an average of 25 days.
Hidden from those statistics are the thousands of hours lost in absence and productivity through low morale, and wasted resources in sick pay, recruitment costs and resolving disputes.
The main cases of stress in the workplace come under six headings:
- A workload that’s too heavy
- Too little support from colleagues and managers
- Changes to duties and team structure
- Breakdown in working relationships
- Employees feeling they have little say in how they do their job
- A lack of understanding or different perceptions of a role
If not addressed early, claims to the Employment Tribunal can follow, with all the disruption, extra costs and damage to reputation.
Claims can fall under:
Personal injury – where an employee claims an employer has failed to meet their duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of employees in the workplace.
Breach of contract – it is an implied term of every employment contract that employers will take reasonable care not to cause psychiatric harm by reason of work environment or the character or volume of work imposed.
Constructive dismissal – where an employee claims that their employer’s behaviour has resulted in stress and breached their contract – forcing them to leave.
Unfair dismissal – where an employee is dismissed on stress related capability grounds.