Stress ruling must not lead to complacency

The
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has warned employers
not to be complacent following a key House of Lords ruling on stress.

In
the case of Barber v Somerset County Council, the Lords ruled that an
employee can only win damages for stress at work if their employer knows they
have suffered a previous mental breakdown, or if they have been told by the
employee that they will suffer ill-health through stress at work.

Once
the employee has informed them, the employer is on notice that an individual is
at risk from stress. This duty continues until something reasonable is done to
help the employee.

However,
the CIPD has warned employers that the ruling will not protect organisations
from the costs of failing to identify and tackle stress at work.

CIPD
employee relations adviser, Ben Willmott, said: "High stress levels will
cause increased levels of staff turnover and absence, as well as low employee
morale and productivity – all of which will cost employers much more than
successful individual claims for work-related stress through the courts."

Willmott
said organisations that ignore the need to manage workplace stress effectively
also risk possible enforcement action by the Health and Safety Executive under
the Health and Safety at Work Act.

"Managing
stress is about managing people properly. This means ensuring employees have
reasonable work demands, achievable targets and the support and training to
help them achieve those targets," he said.

By Michael Millar

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