Some managers may consider it to simply be an excuse to avoid work and not take it seriously, which could make the issue even worse.
The fact is that workplace stress has been linked to several serious health issues, like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, persistent fatigue and insomnia. It is also believed to increase the likelihood of someone having regular headaches, gastrointestinal upsets and a reduced immune response, meaning they pick up viruses more easily.
The Labour Force Survey reported that an estimated 828,000 workers in the UK were suffering from work-related stress, depression, and anxiety during the year 2019/20 and a staggering 17.9 million working days were being lost. As reported by the Health & Safety Executive for the same period, these stress related conditions accounted for more than half of all work-related illnesses and working days lost.
If you are currently a victim of workplace stress, or have been in the last 3 years and would like to file for workers compensation for stress, this guide will show you how to identify the most common causes of stress caused by work, the key steps you should take if you wish to claim compensation and how any settlement would be calculated.
What Is Workplace Stress?
As its name implies, this type of stress is caused by destructive and negative experiences in the workplace. It is defined as a harmful reaction to undue pressures or demands inflicted on an employee at work.
What Are The Common Causes Of Stress At The Workplace?
There are many causes of stress in the workplace, however the most common are given as follows:
1) Excessive/little Workload
Workplace stress can occur when an employer burdens his/her employees with more work than is necessary/reasonable, forces them to work long hours, places unrealistic demands on them, and expects them to meet impracticable deadlines at the last minute.
In reverse, giving an employee too little workload can make them stressed because of lack of stimulation and boredom.
2) Employee Rights Denial
UK law makes it mandatory for employees to be given rights to breaks, annual leave, and rest periods. Workers who are denied these rights can feel stressed and unmotivated.
3) Lack Of Proper Training
Asking workers to do jobs for which they are not sufficiently trained can lead to constant worry about their inability to perform and fear of reprimand. When this becomes the norm in the workplace, it results in aggravated stress levels for the workers.
4) Lack Of Support
Inadequate support, guidance, or assistance from managers and colleagues can leave a worker feeling isolated and lacking in confidence. This, in turn, puts them under too much pressure which can trigger stress.
5) Harassment And Bullying
A toxic work culture that allows abuse from colleagues and managers, which goes unpunished, can lead to a highly stressful environment. This abuse could be in the form of threats, making excessive demands, inappropriate sexual comments or the use of foul language. It could also be due to constant unfounded criticism.
In addition, deliberately passing over an employee for bonuses or promotion because of age, race, sex, political affiliations or religion is also considered bullying, which can then cause unnecessary stress.
Employees at work can experience stress when they are being micromanaged due to a lack of freedom to express themselves.
7) Unconducive Work Environment
Workplaces that are uncomfortable because they are too noisy, too hot, too damp, or too cold can cause stress in workers.
What Should I Do To Claim Workers Compensation For Stress?
If you feel you have suffered in this way and wish to pursue compensation, you will need to take the following steps to file your claim and give it the best chance of success.
Make A Stress Timeline
When you seek compensation for stress at work, you will be asked to prove that you are indeed suffering from work-related stress. This is where a timeline or record of your stress comes in.
Your timeline should note when you started noticing the stress symptoms and what triggered it. In addition, your timeline should include reports of other work events/incidents that contributed to your stress levels. Note down each incident, who was involved, how it affected you etc.
Get A Medical Diagnosis
You will need a counsellor to co-sign the fact that you truly are a victim of stress at work. If confirmed, the diagnosis provides important information to help the court consider your claim. So, ask your GP for a referral or see your workplace counsellor. It is important to keep any medical or travel receipts relating to your workplace stress, such as prescription costs or counsellor costs.
Ascertain The Effect Of The Stress On Your Life
How has the stress affected your life and relationships? Do you find it difficult to sleep because of worry? Are you experiencing increased anxiety and depression or is there any other physical symptoms that have arisen because of the stress? Have you lost your ability to enjoy social engagements?
Has the stress caused you to lose income because you had to take time off work to recuperate? Have you had to cancel a holiday because you don’t feel up to it? Are there any other monetary losses or expenses you have incurred because of work-related stress?
The answers to these questions should be documented in your written records, as they will be used to help determine your final compensation amount.
Before you head to the courts, you should first seek to resolve the issue informally with those involved. If this is not successful, it may be possible to ask a senior manager, HR, or a trade union representative to intervene. If the intervention ends without resolving anything, then it is time to formally notify your employer.
In your formal notice, include your already crafted stress timeline, explain the adverse effect of the stress on your life, and how it limits your ability to work efficiently.
Doing this ensures your employer has the opportunity to modify the workplace, workload or procedures etc so as to make them stress-free and more conducive for workers.
It is important that you don’t skip this step, as your formal notice could set the stage for a successful compensation claim, particularly if your employer fails to respond or resolve the issues.
In the absence of a formal notice, your employer can file a counterclaim alleging that you did not inform them of your issues, which may absolve them of compensating you.
Get Legal Advice
If your employer fails to do anything even after you notified them, or you are not satisfied with the adjustments offered/made, then you should get in touch with an experienced claims advisor or lawyer.
Your lawyer will go through your records to determine if you are eligible to file a compensation claim. This lawyer will also be the person to represent you in court, so ensure you choose one who is experienced in such cases.
How Will My Compensation Pay-out Be Determined?
Two major factors will be considered when a final compensation amount is being calculated and they are:
1) General Damages
This type of damages is given for the physical effects of the stress, which cannot be easily calculated.
For instance, symptoms of work-related stress like depression, lethargy or anxiety are very difficult to quantify. But when the general damages are being calculated, the provisions for pain, suffering, and loss of amenity (quality of life) will ensure those symptoms are adequately covered.
2) Special Damages
This covers the financial impact and losses the stress caused, which can be calculated. This is why keeping receipts and records are important. Under special damages, compensation could be paid for the following:
- Medical expenses
- Loss of income (both present and future)
- Travel expenses
- Care expenses
- Future treatment costs
How Much Compensation Could I Get?
It is impossible to give exact settlement figures, as every case is unique and varies in severity. However, we can show some rough estimates, based on previous cases. Note: These are not guaranteed amounts and are wholly dependent on the specifics of each case.
- For minor or less severe cases, perhaps leading to short-term panic attacks or other stress-related incidents, compensation could be in the range of £1,170 – £4, 450.
- For moderate cases that have a greater impact, compensation could be around £4,450 – £14,500.
- For moderately severe cases, involving a number of issues that continue to affect the victim, the compensation could be between £14,500 – £41,675.
Finally, for very severe cases that lead to long-term significant problems, such as the difficulty in coping with life that shows no sign of improving in the future, compensation could be anywhere up to £88,000.
Workers Compensation For Stress: The Bottom Line
As long as you are sure that your stress is triggered by your workplace and you can prove it, it is worth considering seeking compensation, instead of simply bearing the burden alone.
There is a time limit of 3 years to file a claim, from when the stress symptoms and effects first appeared. So, don’t hesitate to contact a claims advisor for more information and to find out if you may have a valid claim.
In addition to highlighting a problem that may escalate in the future, if nothing is done, your claim will also mandate your employer to take the matter more seriously in the future. This could lead to adjustments being made in the workplace, to better protect the mental health of their employees and prevent similar occurrences happening again.