It is a conversation that I must have everyday when discussing new overwork cases with prospective clients: How much work is too much so that a Court would consider their employer has breached the duty of care owed to them?It is both a simple premise yet an entirely subjective concept and completely dependant upon the facts but: you can bring such claims. There are no special control mechanisms applying to claims for psychiatric illness arising from stress and so such claims follow the ordinary principles of employers liability. Would be claimants need to show they have suffered an injury or a recognised psychiatric illness (e.g. depression) which was foreseeable and caused by their employer’s breach of the duty of care owed to them.Once the foreseeability threshold for injury has been crossed, the fun really starts. Clients often tell me about all of the responsibilities they had. Teachers often tell me about pupil numbers and teaching hours and sales managers tell me about unrealistic targets but how do you compare the work of a neurosurgeon to that of a police officer to that of a part time cleaner? All maybe stressful roles but how much is too much?One of the guiding principles in Lady Justice Hale’s now infamous Judgment in Hatton v Sutherland is that the test is the same whatever the employment i.e. there are no occupations which should be regarded as intrinsically dangerous to mental health. Many of my former police officer clients used to find that extremely difficult to accept given their frequent exposure to trauma and risk of injury.
- Try to preserve any evidence which shows the amount of hours you were working.
- Ensure your employer is aware of the effect your workload is having on your health (emails or grievances are the ideal way of doing this). Hopefully you will be given the support you need to reduce your stress but in the event that is not forthcoming and illness flows as a result, you will have stronger arguments to show that injury was foreseeable.
- Consider discussing your workload with your GP. GPs are often prepared to write to employers with their recommendations for reducing their patient’s stress levels. Failure to carefully consider and implement sensible adjustments could be considered a breach of duty.
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