Mental Health week gives us an opportunity to reflect on what options are available to you if you find yourself struggling with your mental health at work. But let’s make one thing clear, nobody deserves for their mental health to suffer simply by going to work and doing their job. The law however in this area is complicated, and in part outdated, so it important that employees are aware of their legal rights.
Claims for Stress at Work often straddle traditional employment law, most commonly for disability discrimination pursued in the Employment Tribunal, and also personal injury, most often in negligence or for breach of contract pursued in the County and High Courts.
If your mental impairment is having a substantial or long term adverse effect on your ability to carry out your normal day to day activities then you may well satisfy the definition of disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. In such cases your employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments. You will no doubt be aware that your employer cannot discriminate against you because of your gender, age, religion etc and the same goes for your disability. The difference with your disability however is that your employer has a duty to treat you better. The purpose of implementing a suite of reasonable adjustments is to level the playing field to ensure the your disability does not become a barrier to work.
If you feel that you are suffering from work related stress, take our one-minute survey to see if you can make a claim against your employer.Take stress claim survey
Complementing the law on disability discrimination is the tort of negligence which follows the ordinary principles of employer’s liability. Namely your employer would be liable in damages for any breach of the duty of care owed to you which materially contributed to a foreseeable mental injury. However your employer’s duty of care to protect you from psychiatric harm is only engaged once it is on notice of some form of impending harm to your health. The most common issue I see with claims is that employees have been reluctant to discuss their health issue with their employers before they became ill. In those circumstances it is very difficult for the employee to then argue that their employer had acted negligently.
My top 5 tips of what to do if you’re struggling with your mental health at work are therefore as follows:
- Go and see your GP. Above all else your health should be your main priority and recognising symptoms early and receiving appropriate medical support is paramount.
- Let your employer know. This may sound overly simplistic but as I have discussed above, particularly with relation to personal injury claims, your employer cannot be expected to act positively to reduce your stress levels without first being on notice that you are suffering.
- Submit a grievance. I would always advocate attempting to resolve issues informally first, normally with a line manager, but if you are not being listened to or find your manager has not been sympathetic to your concerns, then formally recording these in the form of a grievance should engage your employer’s grievance policy to ensure they are looked at by an appropriate and impartial officer of the company.
- Request an Occupational Health Referral. They are the experts in recommending the reasonable adjustments required to relieve your stress symptoms. Be open with them, they are there to help you and be sure your employer actually implements their recommendations.
- Seek appropriate legal advice. If tips 1-4 do not help to reduce your stress levels and further action is required, make sure you instruct lawyers who are experienced in advising about both employment and personal injury claims.
Please note that these guides are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice. You can contact one of our expert consultant lawyers using the form below.
David is an occupational stress and psychiatric injury specialist.
David is one of the few specialists in the country whose practice is solely made up of work related stress claims. His expertise covers:
- Stress at work claims
- Bullying & harassment claims
- Violence at work claims
- Sexual harassment