Compensation claims for stress at work

Head in hands after a stressful day at work

Certain jobs can place heavy burdens of stress on an employee. Some are inherently stressful, such as high-pressure roles in the emergency services, but even relatively easy jobs have their moments.

In the eyes of many people, stress itself is a ‘nothing’ illness and simply a convenient excuse to avoid work. However, the health problems caused by severe stress (such as anxiety, fatigue, lack of sleep, nausea, weight loss and loss of appetite) can be debilitating and have serious consequences. Further connections are seen with work-related depression and other psychological illnesses.

Employer responsibilities to reduce stress

All employers have a duty of care towards the health of their staff, which includes the prevention of stress-related illnesses. They must ensure that as much assistance, training, support and guidance is offered to staff as possible, so that stress at work can be avoided. If they don’t, they may be held liable should an employee pursue a claim against them.

In most cases, the employer is first placed on notice of concerns about potential damage to the health of an employee, as a result of the working conditions that the employee is being placed under. This gives the employer an opportunity to make alterations to the working conditions so that the cause of stress can be removed.

If an employer has been made aware of the problems, but has failed to take any action to reduce the risks to their employees’ health, they are likely to be liable for the stress-related illness suffered by an employee, should they pursue a claim for compensation.

Can you claim compensation?

If stress has left you unable to work, you may be wondering how to cope with a loss of wages and perhaps whether claiming compensation is an option.

The short answer to this question is yes, you can claim personal injury compensation for stress at work. More precisely, for the health problems it causes. However, you can only do so if the stress-related illness is severe enough to warrant making a claim and a medical diagnosis has been made.

There’s no black and white definition of what constitutes stressful work, as we’re all affected differently in a variety of situations. It boils down to ‘what is a personal injury‘ and an understanding of the same. Psychological health is treated the same as physical health, and therefore damage to your psychological well-being through stress is, in effect, a personal injury.

If a genuine stress-related illness, caused by the conditions under which an employer has made you work, could be described as a personal injury, and if it can be shown that your stress is down to employer negligence, you have a very good chance of successfully claiming personal injury compensation. To find out more about what’s involved, I’d recommend reading our ultimate guide to claiming accident at work compensation.

Causes of stress-related illness

Typical working conditions that can lead to stress-related illness are:

  • Bullying and harassment. This is defined by the government as behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended. This can include unfair treatment, being picked on, undermined or blocked for progression, whether face-to-face, by letter, email or phone. Similarly, abuse, threats or excessive demands will lead to a stressful environment.
  • Lack of support. If an employee is not given adequate support, assistance or guidance, they may well lack confidence, feel overwhelmed and under too much pressure.
  • Workload. There is only so much work that any one person can undertake. If an employer is placing unrealistic demands on an employee, forcing them to work long hours, for example, stress-related illness is a likely outcome.
  • Denial of employee rights. The rights of workers in the United Kingdom are enshrined in law, such as the right to rest periods, breaks and annual leave. If an employer denies these rights to their workers, they can be stressed and have low morale.

What action should you take?

Employees also have rights when they are injured physically or psychologically at work. For many people suffering stress at work, sorting out the situation informally would be the first step. If this isn’t possible, you can talk with your manager, HR department or trade union. If that doesn’t work, you can make a formal complaint to your employer. And if that doesn’t work, you should get some expert advice to see if you can take legal action and claim compensation.

Filed under Work Accidents

27 questions   ASK YOUR OWN

  1. Hi, I developed with depression caused by work in 2015, I was put on medication and went to therapy for 12 weeks, but did not take any time off work. I had to take anti-depressants in the end. In 2016 I investigated the business myself for nearly 6 months to prove fraud was going on in the business against HMRC. Shockingly, my Line Manager ignored my concerns and swept my complaints/concerns under the carpet. I amassed evidence and put grievances in against the Line Manager the and person who was guilty of committing the fraud.

    I was interviewed at length by Auditors who were brought in, then I was interviewed again by the Operations Manager with a note taker present. The person who had committed the fraud, I presume had left their job, but the Line Manager stayed on until March 2017 and then handed in notice to leave. I was told I had opened a can of worms but that was all they could tell me. I told the Operations Manager because my Manager would not listen to me and in this time I had become very stressed and felt terrible about the whole situation and that I’d had to investigate the fraud issue on my own.

    We then had an audit this year in March and failed (not signing receipts for petty cash, sending the wrong paperwork to the Head Office, banking late (sometimes due to staff shortage), not taking an audit roll on daily basis. There was a long list of problems. Because of this I had to attend a disciplinary hearing to which I took a long standing friend with me for support. The hearing lasted some 4 hours with no break. I had taken 2 weeks to put my case together and could demonstrate that the vast majority of the discrepancies occurred on my day off or on days when I did not work – such as Sundays. However, it was found that I was overall responsible as I was the Manager. I received a letter from the employer stating that I was being issued with a written warning because of the failed audit.

    The following day I had my annual review which I cried all the way through as I had been under so much pressure, with no Manager, no Deputy (she had left in the March), no time off since November 16 except my rest days. I felt like I was drowning. Then to add insult to injury in review my Operations Manager for the North West region asked if I had heard from my Manager since he left and proceeded to tell me how well he was and that he keeps in regular contact with her and 2 other members of staff. I was gobsmacked as to why she would think that I would want to hear from someone who put me through such hell.

    Our new Manager went live on the region at the end of June, the work load is for 2 people and I had no deputy or back up after she left, it was 5 weeks before they advertised her job and up to now the last I heard 2 weeks ago when I had a meeting with my Manager, they still have not replaced this position. I ended up by August at the end of my tether, low, down, struggling with work load and targets daily/weekly ones and still working on my own.
    I became unwell and started getting very bad heart palpitations, breathlessness, the shakes, crying and feeling extremely unhappy. I knew that I needed to see my GP, so attended on 9th August and was signed off from work with bad chest infection and anxiety, which my medical records state as being due to work. I returned to see mt GP on 6th September and was signed off again, this time until the 4th October when I am due to see the GP again. At this time I cannot go back to work, as things are still the same with the same people, same daily work schedule etc. I really do feel like the company has completely sucked my desire to do the job completely out of me. Can I claim any compensation? I just feel I need justice for what I have been through.

    1. Thank you for visiting our website and sharing the awful situation in which you have found yourself because of the unhelpful and unsupportive attitudes of your employer and work colleagues.

      Claiming compensation for work related stress and anxiety is something that can be done, but is something that can often require very specialist legal knowledge.

      Given your description of the situation in which you found yourself, we would recommend that you seek the services of a specialist Employment Law Solicitor and discuss this with them. It may be that you can seek compensation for this situation with the right advice and legal support.

      1. Thank you so much for reading my rather long message!! And a very big thank you for your advice, i felt like i was going out of my mind.

        Regards

        1. You are most welcome, we are here to help. At Direct2Compensation we pride ourselves on being here to answer queries and offer help where we can. On some occasions such as yours, we can’t offer direct help but we can always listen and offer you some guidance on where to go for help. I hope you find success and can get the assistance you are looking for.

  2. Hi.
    I am working for my current employer for one year.
    Had an issue with a manager ( now removed from site)

    Been assigned to manage a team of workers which were not from my industry. Without any training even I have asked for it. This role is not in my contract. ( e.g. a Doctor should look after Bricklayer.)
    I was always getting the blame even I should not be responsible.
    Been unfairly accused of racism several times by same person.
    (Everyone was interviewed to give statements about me)
    No support from management even when I was asking for help , support and training. (Werbaly and via e-mail)
    Another Supervisor from other shift is interfering in my shift, even firing staff from my shirt.
    And many other issues that have now led to my absence. I have stress, depressions, on strong medications , been reffered to psychiatrist. I started my sicknote with sleeping problems.
    But they know what’s the problem with me. ( On the wellbeing meeting , my manager knew is work related. Discussion of the record)
    So I want to ask what options I have .

    1. Your situation sounds stressful and difficult. From reading what you describe, I think you need to speak with an employment law specialist rather than a personal injury compensation specialist as you may well have a claim against your employer in that arena rather than any personal injury.

  3. I recently left my job due to stress and anxiety, some of the listed below, do you think I have a claim?

    I had been employed for over 10 years and worked my way up to shift manager.

    I found being shift supervisor quite stress full but I could manage it and I thought it was normal to get stressed.
    Around 3 months after accepting the shift managers position I felt my stress levels rising and a was getting anxious.
    I eventually found myself not sleeping in the nights, work was constantly on my mind and I was overthinking and clock watching. so in turn I was constantly tired.

    I would get angry at work and loose my temper regularly, I was taking this temper home with me, my fiancé and children found me difficult to live with.

    I was smoking heavily and eating a lot because I found food comforting.
    I would be in an almost constant state of worry, worrying about a confrontation in work (would I have the answers people needed?) or worrying about meetings or disaplinaries that would be coming up.

    I had headaches, chest pain, lower back pain, short of breath,l could see things floating around in my eyes. Doctor suggested headaches and pain in back could be physical symptoms of anxiety.

    I was diagnosed with anxiety and put medication.

    I gave a months notice in September 2016 to stand down from the shift managers position,
    Four of my superiors talked me out of this and I took my notice back on the basis of (they said they would help me). I didn’t receive this help.
    I’m February 2017 I gave my months notice to finish work because things had got worse for me. My finish date was the 28th of febuary, but I finished on the the 15th because I could not take it anymore. I felt I had no choice but to finish my job, I did not have the support I needed.

    Since leaving the job my life has changed drastically, I no longer need medication, I no longer eat for comfort I no longer have anger issues and I have quit smoking.
    I am now in a much better place but I am not the same person I was.
    I am now in a much lower payed job, I have to work more hours and I earn less money.

    1. From what you have said, you may have a claim against your former employer, but our concern would be that this is more of a constructive dismissal matter – in that the actions or inactions of your former employer forced you to quit your post.

      With this in mind, we would recommend that you seek the advice of an Employment Law specialist rather than an Injury Compensation specialist such as ourselves.

      It is important to make sure that you get the right legal advice and given your situation, an employment law Solicitor will be best placed to advise and possibly represent you.

  4. Hello i have work related stress and already I’m not going to work 3 weeks is ut possible to get some compensation from my employer?

    1. Sandra

      Work related stress claims can succeed if it can be shown that an employer has failed to adequately support a worker or placed an unfair burden of work upon them. Such claims are very specialised and should be made with the assistance of a specialist employment law Solicitor.

  5. Hi. Will try to cut a long story short! Been a civil servant for 28 years with the last 10 in a management position. High performing, regularly awarded annual performance bonuses. Excellent attendance record. No discipline issues. Since 2012 workload increasing and support decreasing. Submitted stress survey in May 2012. No action taken and I just “got on with it”. New managers/ways of working from 2014. Macho/bullying culture ensued. Two female members of my team buckled and resigned. By end of 2014 I was beginning to crack (tearful meetings/email exchange evidence) but still kept delivering. April 2015 awarded performance bonus for delivering a major project. Then given another new line manager who didn’t appear to like me…….I believe this was due to me being female but not subservient and maybe being too good at my job/a threat. Several other female staff also had issues. No support given, more pressure with impossible deadlines. Excluded from meetings and generally set up to fail. Complained about another manager (friend of my LM) who had acted aggressively towards me and made sarcastic/sexist comments on a number of occasions. Another tearful meeting led to me submitting a stress survey in July 2015. Nothing
    constructive done. August 2015 was told my role was no longer available to me as a part-timer (4 days a week)…….(it was subsequently advertised as available to part timers/job sharers). Final straw! Severe panic attack saw me go home sick. Tried to return after a month. Managed 2 weeks but further poor treatment saw me go long term sick in October 2015. Raised complaint then formal grievance regarding malicious action with LMs acting behind my back in secret and marking me as a poor performer in April 2016……won grievance and taken out of bottom 10%. Pursued further grievance regarding bullying/victimisation. Turned down in August but went to appeal which was partially upheld in January 2017. Employer conceded I had been bullied by one manager with others needing more investigation (Senior Manager later refused to sanction this investigation). However in November 2016 I had been dismissed to take effect from 02/02/17. Limited efficiency compensation eventually paid but in meantime I had been adversely affected by a rule change which cost me £18k. I believe this was malicious and/or sharp practice. January 2017 employer conceded my illness was work related and I received some back-pay from my sick absence. Transpired my LM had failed to pursue my ill health retirement application but reluctantly agreed to do so during my notice period. Before leaving for another job he submitted a malicious statement to Health Assured about what had been going on, showing me in a bad light. I only found out about this by accident via my GP. I have been trying to get the statement for several months; informally, then through Freedom of Information and finally via the ombudsman (ICO) who state Home Office are in breach of DPA and must provide statements by tomorrow. Meanwhile my health has been severely affected. I am taking anti depressants, am being referred for further counselling and have an appointment with a consultant psychiatrist next week. My questions; do I have a claim? I have received some “limited efficiency” compensation but nothing for my pain and suffering nor future loss of income. My 28 year career has been cut short through no fault of my own. I cannot see myself being able to get back to my previous income level prior to retirement even if I find myself well enough to return to employment. I am told I may have been covered by the DDA. Who actually decides on this? I believe there have been elements of gender and disability discrimination. I believe I have also been the victim of bullying (proven), victimisation (by those I complained about who then closed ranks on me) and harassment. I have 3 witnesses who are happy to speak on my behalf including a more senior female manager who has also been forced out by these managers. Sorry about the ramble! My union was hopeless. I am waiting to hear from my home insurance company regarding my legal protection. Saw this and hoped you could advise………….

    1. Hi Helen

      Thank you for visiting our website, I am sorry to hear about your recent experiences at work and how you feel the victim of discrimination and bullying.

      We do have a link to a specialist employment law Solicitor who can assist with such claims against employers and we would be very happy to link you up with that individual.

  6. Good morning, i wan’t to mane a claim against my employers, and get a moral compansation from them. Can you advise me if this is possible at all?
    I was working with the same company from 5th january 2016 till 15th december 2016. I was doing part time job 80 hours a month. Everything was fine till april. I didn’t had any problems. And then in novemver 2016 my boss called to hmrc and told them that i’m not working with them anymore from begining of april. Because of that my benefits was cut, i didnt recieved any benefits and recieved a letter that i own hmrc 900 pound for workig tax credit. Because i was still working with them, i send my payslips to hmrc to proof of my work, and then i found out that they deleted me from all workers system. I quit my job in december. Employers gave me p45, but still i’m classed as non worker for all 2016. My incomes in 2016 showing as 0 in tax office, and i was working 9 months, earned 5300 in that time. Employers refused to change information anywhere and insulted me for trying to speak with them politly and sort this situation.

    1. Juste

      This is not something we could assist with or offer much support. You really need to be speaking to HMRC and demonstrating to them that your employer has acted incorrectly. You may also wish to speak with an Employment Law specialist too.

  7. Hi, I’ve been with my current government employer for 18 years, 14 of those years I have suffered discrimination, assaults, harassment and bullying. The last 3 years ive been a manager and I’ve suffered with a very high workload sometimes covering 6 posts including my own. I’ve had to manage one gross misconduct case which lead to the person trying to get me sacked by attempting to get members of my team to say I’m bullying them and making dishonest comments about me. It got so bad that HR wrote a report to the misconduct hearing stating the individuals behaviour had been unacceptable towards me and went on to say that they should have suspended them instead of leaving them in the same department as myself during the investigation (around 6 months).
    I had to manage another member of my team long term sickness. There was evidence that the person was not honest with his illness but management refused to investigate this. The member of staff spent around a year making suggestions that I was bullying him (instigated by the other member of the team) this caused other members of the department (over 50) to ignore me talk about and disrespect me on a daily basis. HR believed he was using me to deflect from his inability to do the job.
    I was then told I had to manage a member of staff from another department because he was leaving and needed a different role until his leave date. This wasn’t true he was being investigated for gross misconduct and I ended up have to make reports on him and in the end informing him that he was being suspended. Staff in the department started to joke about me being the grim reaper as I had two members of staff sacked and one moved out of my team. During this time I was suffering stress related health issues and management and HR all stated that I was dealing with extremely stressful issues and had to deal with issues that most managers would never have to deal with in their whole career. The situation got so bad I felt I had no choice but to apply to go to another department. Within a month of starting in a new unit I fell sick and I have been diagnosed PTSD and anxiety disorder and depression, this has severely effected my daily life and I have been unable to work for the last year. I have tried to negotiate an agreed exit but they refused and have claimed my ill health isn’t work related (my Home life is very stable and supportive so they aren’t able to use this as a reason) Would I be able to take action against my employer?

    1. Jane

      You may be able to take action but as you can imagine, such claims are very difficult. That said, it should not stop you from taking this further. I suggest that you call our specialist partners at Bartletts Solicitors directly on 01244313301 for guidance and advise with this.

      Yours sincerely

      Ian

  8. Hi, I have been off work with work related stress for the last few months which has led to depression. I attended a meeting with my boss and she assured me that if I return to work she would accommodate a phased duties as well as hours return to work. I returned to work and was immediately told that although they would accommodate the phased hours, unforeseen circumstances had arisen and I wouldn’t be allowed the “light duties” anymore. The job was as stressful as when I left so after me telling work that I felt out of my depth again I went off sick a few days later as I wasn’t being listened to. I have attended a further meeting and now been told if I do not return to work then my case will be passed to another manager who will look at demotion or dismissal. I wonder if you could advise please?

    1. Shauna

      Stress resulting from work situations is a growing problem. Many employers now expect their staff to work harder for less, manage more work than is reasonable and the physical impact of work related stress can be extremely serious.

      You may well be able to pursue a claim for compensation against your employer for the work related stress problem that you have been coping with. Making such claims is not easy, but there are rules that an employer must follow when it comes to being put on notice that someone has a health issue related to their working environment. However, there is not necessarily an obligation for an employer to provide light duties – certainly on a long term basis.

      However, if the employer has made an agreement with you that you could return to work on a phased hours basis, with light duties initially, then it is only fair that they meet their end of the agreement and allow you to return to work gradually and as you get back in the groove so to speak, that they increase your hours and workload to the point that you are eventually able to work your full hours and deal with a full workload.

      It would not seem fair or reasonable to look at demoting you or dismissing you if the employer has moved the goal posts and refused you light duties after agreeing them with you.

      I would suggest that your initial action should be to escalate this within your employers HR department and arrange a meeting where you can state the agreement that was made – to which you had agreed (to return on light duties and reduced hours) and that this agreement was immediately broken by the employer on the first day of your return.

      I hope that this helps you.

      Best wishes

      Ian

      1. Hi Ian, Thanks for your reply. The last meeting I attended included a HR caseworker. I explained everything in the meeting and the HR caseworker agreed with my manager that if the business need changed then they rightfully put me on normal duties. Ridiculously, we again discussed light duties and it was stated that if the business need changed (but they didn’t anticipate it would) then they again wouldn’t be able to accommodate the light duties. The discussion seemed pointless. I told them I had lost confidence in them because of the last attempt at returning. I will hopefully be returning to work after christmas.

        1. I hope that you are able to get back to work in the New Year and I can fully understand why you have lost confidence in the employer!

          Best of luck!

  9. Could I complain about social lady who didn’t do her job properly and after all it was me who’s been left with all stress
    Officially she should contact my client not me all off them should not write to my private email and make me stress about not going home for xmass
    I’m just carer not social worker and apparently it’s not my problem that someone didn’t do job like they should why I should pay for someone mistakes and didn’t sleep for week waiting for all of them to organise everything

    1. Monika

      Thank you for your comment. Your situation certainly sounds stressful and I can appreciate that you have had a very difficult time dealing with these issues.

      Whether or not you could succeed with a claim for compensation is not something I can say with any certainty at this time. You would have to demonstrate a failure at a corporate (employer) level rather than just a matter of individuals simply contacting you on their own behalf. If you can show that Social Services (or whoever else has overall responsibility for the area in which you found yourself) failed to correctly inform workers who they should contact and how, you may be able to bring a claim for stress and psychological anxiety issues. As you can appreciate, this is a difficult matter and may not succeed.

  10. Hi,
    I was made redundant after 23 years and selected by job title ‘administrator’. I was shocked to be one of those in this pool, as my job is vital to the whole site and it’s a busy one. My job is unique, and quite specialised. I had gone through the consultation process, as standard, but contested the situation.
    The company made a big mistake and after I was told to leave site (prior to my official end date) a lady was sat at my desk doing my job.
    Such was the situation, colleagues went to the leadership team and stated that they were totally shocked and that I must be reinstated. So I was indeed offered my job back, and redundancy money was withdrawn. I had suffered a lot of stress and anxiety, after so many meetings. I did decide to stay, but was not compensated in any way in monetary terms. I feel I deserve a payout! I am still being asked if I got anything…. Of course I did not, but want to know how to approach the subject. My new boss is supportive.
    Thank you

    1. Thank you for your comment and enquiry. I am sorry to hear that you have had such a stressful and upsetting experience. Claims such as yours are not always straight-forward, but that does not mean that you do not have a viable claim for compensation as a result of stress and anxiety caused by an employer. The key to having a successful claim for compensation in your case will depend on whether or not your stress was recorded with your employer and with your GP. Obviously, if this happened to you some time ago and nothing was recorded and no medical consultation was undertaken, it will be hard to prove the basis of your claim. However, if this has happened recently you could still see a GP and report the situation to them. You should also speak to the HR department of your employer and discuss this situation with them. Of course, if you have already done this, you should submit your details via our website and we can arrange for a suitably experienced solicitor to contact you to discuss taking this further.

      I hope that this response if of use to you. Should you have any further queries or wish to discuss anything with us, please feel free to email us at: [email protected]

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