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Stress at Work Claims

Most people feel that well organised and fulfilling work helps to promote health and self-esteem as well as paying the bills. But when an employer pays insufficient attention to job support resources or tolerates bullying and harassment, this can lead to work related stress and illness or injury can often be an inevitable result.


Serious illnesses can be caused when the expected performance levels of a job exceed a person's capacity and capability to reasonably fulfill that expectation. Bullying or harassment at work can also be stressful, intimidating and can seriously affect your health and mental well-being.

There may be instances where staff are put under intolerable strain due to poor planning or inadequate resource allocation by senior management. You may be given a task or project fraught with difficulties and problems, which despite your best efforts and the issues you've identified to management, still does not receive the support, investment or resources you consider necessary to carry it out.

As a consequence, you may be put under enormous pressure, working excessive hours to compensate for that lack of support, becoming stressed, unwell and eventually signed off work. In the more extreme cases you may be unable to return to work at all due to your condition.

You may have suffered a psychiatric or physical injury brought on by stress at work and feel that your employer created those conditions but did nothing to prevent or alleviate them. If Shoosmiths can prove the employer breached their legal duty of care to you in failing to take reasonable steps to prevent or reduce that foreseeable risk of harm to your health, you may be able to claim compensation.

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How do I make a claim about stress at work

Your health is of paramount importance, so before contacting stress at work lawyers speak to your GP. Aside from helping to treat your illness, this will also produce useful evidence to support your claim.

You can help yourself to some extent. Keeping a diary of the stressful events or incidences of bullying or harrassment will help to support your claim, however many people are reluctant to do so because they don't want to be seen as being 'unreliable or unable to cope.' Others believe that it's difficult to take legal action for something as vague as 'stress at work'.

The fact remains that employers owe a range of general duties to take reasonable care to protect against any foreseeable risk of injury to their employees. Such duties are covered by the law of negligence and civil liability. A few cases have gone to litigation in the civil courts, however many more have been settled out of court without needing an admission of liability by the employer or the need for the victim to go to trial.

Suffering an illness due to workplace stress is not an inevitable part of any job. There are things you can do to prevent it happening in the first place or you can make a claim after the event to help fund your rehabilitation and recovery. It is true that taking such action can be very stressful in itself, which is why it's always best to get guidance from specialist stress at work solicitors in this complex area of law.

If I have a case about stress at work

Work related stress claims must show that you suffered actual harm (physical or psychological) as a consequence of your employer’s negligence.

There is much greater pressure at work today. We are all expected to work harder and of course not all stress is bad for you. However, if the harm you suffered was reasonably foreseeable (i.e. your employer knew or ought to have known about that risk of harm to your health) and you become ill because of your employer's breach of their duty of care, stress at work claims are likely to succeed.

Aside from lack of adequate support for employees, another source of stress at work is bullying and harassment. Sadly, this is not uncommon and can cause considerable distress to those affected by it.

Although there is no specific 'anti-bullying' law in the UK, an employer can still be held liable if they do nothing to prevent bullying or harassment. However both have precise and differing legal definitions which will determine whether a claim is possible.

More about stress at work

People who experience extreme levels of stress at work are far more likely to suffer from poor health and also mental illness. A report published in 2014 by the country's most senior doctor, Professor Dame Sally Davies, suggested that working days lost to stress related illness had increased by 24% since 2009, while the number lost due to serious mental illness had doubled.

Other research indicates that people are 60% more likely to develop illnesses such as asthma as a result of stress at work. The scientific evidence is now irrefutable that increased levels of workplace stress can result in illness and in some cases, serious mental health problems.

Many calls have been made to improve funding for mental health treatment in the NHS overall, however there is a clear need to tackle the root causes of stress at work at source.

All employers (including senior board directors, HR managers and line managers) have a legal responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to minimise the risk of stress related illness or injury no matter what the cause.

In addition, employers also have a responsibility under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 to prevent conduct which causes alarm or distress and amounts to the harassment of another. If an employer can be proved to have breached or neglected any of these duties, a successful claim for stress at work may be possible.

Our Experts

  • Sharine Burgess

    Sharine Burgess


    Personal injury, Industrial diseases

    Sharine is a Partner in the Serious Injury department at Shoosmiths and heads up the Personal Injury team based in Northampton. She was appointed joint head of the Northampton Office in 2021.

    View full profile

'Shoosmiths got me the rehab I needed and really helped with my family. They were fantastic throughout.'

Nicola Cooper, who suffered a serious brain injury after a seemingly trivial car accident.

Why Shoosmiths?

We have a wealth of experience dealing with complex military claims including where clients have been injured during the course of service or have experience undue suffering because of a breach of care. We also help families of military personnel prepare for inquests.

Why Shoosmiths

Who we work with

  • Brain Injury Group
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