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Employment Law Bulletin: Stress at Work
Monday, 24 September 2007 16:24
According to the Health and Safety Executive, work-related stress is now the second biggest occupational health problem in the UK. The average amount of time an employee is absent from work due to stress is 30.9 days

The need for employers to take work-related stress seriously was highlighted in the recent case (Intel Corporation Ltd v Daw (2007)). The employee, who had previously suffered from postnatal depression, complained 14 times in a six-month period to her employer regarding her excessive workload and management failures. Upon finding the employee in tears at her desk, the employee’s manager gave her assurances that an additional person would be recruited to offload some of her pressures. This never happened and shortly afterwards the employee suffered a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide. The Court found that the employer had been negligent as the injury to the employee’s health was reasonably foreseeable and the employer had missed a window of opportunity in which to take appropriate, urgent action to prevent the employee’s health from deteriorating. The employee was awarded £134,000 in damages

 TIPS – Given the above, the advice is to always take complaints from employees seriously regarding any work-related stress they are suffering. In addition:-

Where an employee has complained of, or is clearly suffering from work-related stress, as well as taking appropriate action, keep the situation under review so that you are in a position to take further (urgent) action if necessary;

b.      Make sure that managers and HR professionals are equipped to deal with complaints of stress;

c.      Carry out risk assessments to enable you to comply with Health and Safety legislation and to monitor employees’ stress levels and concerns about work;

d.      If assurances are made (such as reducing an employees work load, or giving additional support), make sure that these are followed through. Do not give assurances that you cannot commit to, or are unable to accommodate, as this will do nothing to alleviate the problem and may even make matters worse;

e.      Offer a counselling service to help employees manage their work-related pressures, but do not rely on this exclusively as a sole means of support to employees.

 

If you have any queries about stress at work issues please contact David Greenhalgh at H2O Law LLP on 020 7405 4700.

Whilst H2O Law LLP makes every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information contained in this article the information should not be relied upon as a substitute for formal legal advice.  H2O Law LLP, its employees and agents will not be responsible for any loss, howsoever arising, from the use of or reliance upon this information. © H2O Law LLP 2007