Personal injury claims for work-related stress have increased twelve-fold
over the past year, according to the TUC. Almost 6500 new cases were reported
this year by TUC-affiliated unions, up from just 516 last year.
TUC General Secretary John Monks described the rise as very worrying:
"I do not want to join the blame race over stress at work. I want to
talk about partnership, because trade unions want to be part of the solution
where stress is concerned, not part of the problem," he said.
Most of the large payouts so far have been in the public sector.
Worcestershire County Council, for example, has had to pay out almost half a
million pounds in the past 18 months to four employees, most recently to a
social worker who won £140,000 after regularly working 70-80 hour weeks.
Hastings and Rother NHS Trust paid the same amount to an employee for
subjecting her to extreme stress after she returned to work from maternity
leave, although it was aware of her postnatal depression.
Reckitt & Colman in Derby became the first ever private sector firm to
be sued for stress last year when it was forced to pay £55,000 to a
long-serving employee it exposed to "dangerous" pressure to meet
performance targets, despite being aware of his anxiety and depression.
Lawyers are warning employers not to be complacent as more claimants manage
to surmount the obstacles to winning stress damages.
"There is a growing body of evidence linking workplace stress to
serious illness, which reduces causation difficulties," according to Paul
White, a senior associate at Stephenson Harwood.
"Furthermore, the courts are increasingly willing to accept that
stress-related illness was foreseeable and will give short shrift to companies
turning a blind eye to stressed staff."