Firms told to prepare for deluge of stress claims

Employers have been told to brace themselves for a rash of compensation
claims for stress, following two cases of six-figure pay-outs in two days.

Worcestershire County Council paid out a record £203,000 settlement to a
former employee on 10 January. The next day Test Valley Borough Council settled
a personal injury case caused by stress at £200,000.

Patricia Leighton, head of the law school at Manchester Metropolitan, said
stress can sometimes cost more than the loss of a limb.

"Employers must be prepared for litigation and think very carefully
about their management strategies to ensure that if claims are brought they are
not won," she said.

Ian Walker, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, said
his firm expects to be inundated. It was deluged with applications following
the first publicised stress payout of £175,000 to social worker John Walker in
1996.

All reported cases so far have involved local authorities.

Rita Sammons, Socpo president, said, "Public sector staff have to deal
with sensitive and difficult situations and are highly likely to be on the
receiving end of abuse."

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