Stress at Work Claims: Can I Sue My Employer For Stress and Anxiety?

Typical levels of work-related stress are foreseeable in high-intensity environments with demanding expectations. However, employees can feel debilitated when the workplace pressures become too much. In such circumstances, employees may consider making stress at work claims.

Below, we examine how stress in the workplace may present itself and delve into the consequences for employees who suffer. Then, we look at the employer’s responsibilities and whether employees can sue those who aren’t compliant. If an employee has a case, we also discuss how they could prepare for a lawsuit and what compensation they may receive if they win.

What is Work-Related Stress? – Symptoms & Resolutions

April is stress awareness month in 2024. Therefore, we believe it essential to inform employees about stress at work claims, beginning with the symptoms they arise from.

Despite being harder to detect than physical harm, work-related stress can be just as detrimental to an employee’s well-being. It comes about when an employee feels overwhelmed and is unable to cope with the pressured environment they’re working in. If an employee experiences this in the workplace, their symptoms of stress could include:

  • Concentration difficulties
  • Heart palpitations
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Skin condition flare-ups

These symptoms could have far-reaching consequences on the employee’s life. From being unable to sleep to having issues concentrating, the individual’s work performance could suffer. Furthermore, if the individual suffers stress-induced rashes or heart palpitations, their physical health could decline.

Because of this, it’s important employers take their duty to create a stress-free environment seriously. And there are many steps employers can take to achieve this. For example, the employer could:

  1. Limit the workload employees are expected to undertake and consider flexible working. By creating a sustainable work-life balance, employees can complete their work without putting dangerous amounts of pressure on themselves.
  2. Improve employee engagement. When employees work hard, it’s good to feel recognised. By creating incentives and rewarding hard work, not only could employee productivity increase, but their welfare could, too.
  3. Focus on well-being. This seems obvious, but it can be overlooked. Offering gym memberships, access to counselling, and creating a culture where taking breaks is encouraged could all contribute to reducing stress in the workplace.

Can Employees Make Stress at Work Claims?

Employees who have suffered any of the above symptoms may want to claim compensation. However, employees should attempt to tackle the problem internally before commencing legal proceedings. They should first discuss the issues they face in an informal setting but consider making a formal grievance if the matter remains unresolved.

If employees aren’t adequately supported by their employer in such circumstances, they may be eligible for several stress at work claims. For example, if work-related stress causes a physical or mental impairment that substantially affects the employee’s ability to carry out typical daily activities long-term, they may be entitled to disability discrimination compensation.

A disability discrimination claim could also comprise compensation for failure to make reasonable adjustments, harassment, and victimisation. The circumstances of the case and the way the employer treated the employee would dictate this.

A further unfair dismissal claim may arise if an employer dismisses an employee solely due to stress. This claim would likely succeed unless the employer had a fair reason to dismiss the employee and followed a fair process. 

Yet that’s not all. If an employer knew an employee had work-related stress but didn’t take reasonable steps to support them, the employee could be eligible to make a constructive dismissal claim. Here, the employee would argue their employer had destroyed their employment relationship, thus breaching the employment contract and entitling them to resign and claim compensation. However, such claims are notably challenging to win, so it’s worth seeking legal advice before proceeding.

Finally, the employee could claim the tort of negligence through the civil courts.

Examples of Stress at Work Claims

To provide some context, in Mr W Santos Ramos v Royal Mail Group Ltd, the claimant was ruled to have been unfairly dismissed from their role following lost mail. The employment tribunal found this had occurred due to ‘mind fog’, which stemmed from stress in the workplace.

Separately, in Mrs E Worsley v Commissioners for HMRC, the tribunal held disability discrimination and unfair dismissal had occurred. They found the claimant’s dismissal had resulted from her high sickness absence rate. This was caused by her depression, which, in turn, developed from work-related stress.

How to Prepare for a Workplace Stress Claim

Employees should collate as much evidence as possible to support stress at work claims. Examples of the evidence an employee could gather include:

  • Medical notes – It’s wise for employees suffering from stress at work to visit their doctor for help. Doing so will create a paper trail of the stress the employee has been faced with.
  • Contact details for witnesses – During work, colleagues may see the impact the stress is having on an employee. By collecting such information, solicitors can contact them when building their cases.
  • Correspondence with their employer – If an employee has discussed their workplace stress with their employer, correspondence will show how it was dealt with. This could be crucial in determining whether the employer conducted itself correctly.

Compensation for Stress in the Workplace Claims

Individuals looking to make stress at work claims will likely want an idea of the compensation they could receive. Due to the multitude of circumstances that may comprise one’s claim, compensation will vary in each case. Factors that could influence the sum awarded include:

  • The suffering an individual has endured because of their work-related stress
  • Any income the individual has lost due to their mental impairment
  • Future loss of earnings due to being no longer able to work

Compensation for loss of earnings and injury to feelings cannot be estimated. However, if an employer’s discrimination has induced the work-related stress in question, personal injury compensation could be obtained through the employment tribunal. Unlike other awards, this specific type of compensation can be estimated using the Judicial College Guidelines (JCG).

If the discriminatory-induced stress causes severe psychological problems, compensation ranging from £54,830 to £115,730 could be awarded. Supposing it caused moderately severe or moderate issues, the compensatory ranges would be £19,070 to £54,830 or £5,860 to £19,070 respectively. 

[Please note that new JCG figures were published on 5 April 2024, meaning the above will soon be updated].

Making Stress at Work Claims with Redmans

We hope you enjoyed reading this article about stress at work claims. If you would like to learn more about workplace stress, read our complete practical guide. Supposing you have a case and want expert help with your compensation claim, contact Redmans Solicitors today. We are employment law specialists and could asses your circumstances to uncover your eligibility to claim.

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