Another week, another batch of headline-grabbing compensation awards as the litigious society takes hold. Facing a tribunal case can cost an arm and a leg these days, it seems.
On the subject of arms and legs, their value is set to rise also. The maximum recompense for loss of or injury to a limb is almost certain to double when the Appeal Court meets in three weeks' time to review a series of cases. The expected increase in pay-outs will also encompass psychological damage in stress at work cases.
The temptation for many employers in response to these developments is to throw their hands in the air, complain about wimpish employees scurrying to their "no win, no fee" lawyers and bemoan the lack of backbone in society.
This is to misread the situation. It can actually be difficult to win large sums at a tribunal; it takes a long time and one needs a strong case. It is also true that awards have been difficult to obtain for some very worthy cases, such as the retired coal miners quietly dying of emphysema while they await compensation from the Government.
In the case of workplace stress one needs to demonstrate a diagnosed psychiatric condition; cases have been thrown out where this is not shown. The award in such cases is only partly compensation - it also includes lost earnings.
This does not mean that there is no cause for concern over the rising levels of awards. There is a real danger that the "have a go" society could arrive through the force of its own momentum, as there is some anecdotal evidence that a few employers, scared by the newspaper headlines, are rolling over as soon as they receive a claim for stress.
It is here that the HR professional has a crucial role. Just as many line managers panic with a misbehaving employee, wrongly believing that it is impossible to sack someone, so they can assume they are in the wrong over a compensation claim when they are not.
By staying calm and addressing the facts of the case and of the law, the HR professional can maintain sanity in a rapidly changing environment.