Stress in the workplace- Preventing claims by employees

Stress in the workplace- Preventing claims by employees

As an employer you have a ‘duty of care’ towards your employees and this covers a wide range of physical and psychological injuries.

The ‘overloading of employees with work’ is better known as stress and failure to prevent injury through it can be costly.

Public awareness that you can make claims for stress related injury is very high after cases have been widely reported in the media. This ‘profile’ creates an environment whereby employees become more likely to pursue claims than ever before.
Sensible measures to avoid claims:

  • Monitor workloads to ensure they are not unreasonable
  • Have regular appraisals to track employees’ progress and identify training needs
  • Communicate objectives clearly, particularly when they change
  • Define employees’ responsibilities carefully and check that they are clearly understood
  • Train your managers to recognise the symptoms of stress

Increased absenteeism, increased eating (i.e. regular snacks), tiredness, alcohol and drug abuse, having a short fuse and becoming distant and uncommunicative are all examples of how stress can affect people differently.

Your obligations as an employer:

  • Statutory Provisions

The Health & Safety Act 1974 applies to all types and places of employment and breach of the Act can result in criminal action and penalties being brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

  • Common Law

Employers’ have a common law duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of their employees and there are 2 types of liability – primary and secondary. An employer breaching either of these can be faced with civil action for negligence or breach of contract.

  • Working Hours

The Working Time Regulations 1998 impose restrictions on hours of work and cover areas such as employees’ rights to rest breaks, rest periods and annual leave.

Employers must also display the latest (6 April 2009) Health and Safety poster or provide every employee with a copy of the leaflet.

28 June 2010


The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances. (50587)