Hallelujah… At last, there’s a glimmer of light for employers on
work-related stress claims.
The courts are recognising that employers are not psychiatrists and there is
now more onus on employees to take responsibility for their own mental health
The latest House of Lords ruling, endorsing legal principles established by
the Court of Appeal, should make a significant difference to future stress
cases. An employee simply complaining of stress will not be enough – they must
explain that they are going to specifically suffer ill health because of it.
Once the employer has been notified of the risk then reasonable steps must
be taken and it seems that offering a confidential counselling service would be
sufficient defence to a claim.
This is good news for HR as it’s a cost effective, tangible option for the
employer and a highly practical approach to offer the individual.
The other advice being given is that you are entitled to take what the
employee says at face value. So if the individual has suffered a breakdown, but
says ‘I’m okay now’, there is no obligation on the employer to do anything
Experts are predicting that fewer stress-at-work claims will succeed in
future – providing employers take sensible precautions and respond to their duty
But there are still concerns about the pace at which employers are
introducing clear and unambiguous stress management systems.
Research last month from Croner showed that most organisations have done
nothing to implement the stress management guidelines being introduced by the
Health & Safety Executive. There may be concerns in some quarters about the
practicalities of the HSE’s proposals, but this is no excuse for no action at
The business case for improved stress management is overwhelming – it’s
about establishing mutual trust and confidence between you and the workforce.
This latest ruling helps employers considerably in avoiding legal liability,
but only if they are prepared to help themselves.
By Jane King, editor