Support Hub > Stress Claims > How to prove stress at work
How to prove stress at work
Stress at work claims are often complex claims which require careful handling by an experienced solicitor. They are often fact heavy and it is not uncommon for defendant employers to present a completely different set of facts as part of any defence.
As with most civil cases prospects of success will be determined on which set of facts a Judge prefers on the balance of probabilities and so it is vitally important that evidence is both preserved and collated to help prove stress at work claims.
1. Raise a Grievance
We would advise our clients to submit a grievance in the first instance wherever possible. It may be that a well reasoned grievance outcome with appropriate recommendations is all that is needed to address the issues at hand and negate the need to issue a claim. Grievance investigations are however helpful no matter the result as it helps to crystallise the facts but some other important points are as follows:
- It shows you have been reasonable and taken informal steps to address a complaint without rushing to litigation.
- Any admissions by the defendant employer within a grievance outcome can be used to frame the allegations of negligence in subsequent litigation.
- Even if your grievance is not upheld, the outcome will inform your solicitor about how a claim might be defendant should one be brought which can give you a tactical edge.
2. Statement from colleagues
If for example you are pursuing a claim for bullying at work then you could approach your colleagues to see if they would be prepared to provide a supportive witness statement. This could include their comments on any bullying they have witnessed or experienced themselves. In this case, the quantity and quality of supportive witnesses can often increase the prospects of your claim.
One of the key elements of proving a stress claim is to prove that your employer was aware, or ought to have been aware, that you were becoming unwell. If you have not had any previous stress related absences then you will often need some other evidence to prove that injuries occasioned by stress were foreseeable. This could be a contemporaneous email or document where you set out the impact of work on your health and what assistance you needed. Anything which put your employer on notice of impending harm to your health will be very important.
Are there any documents which will support your claim? For example if you are pursuing a claim for overwork then usually the key part of your claim will proving how much work you had to do and the number of extra hours you have worked. This can be supported by call logs, attendance logs or emails which show you have been working earlier or later than normal or working at weekends etc. Again the more evidence you have the greater your chance to objectively show that you have been overworked.
5. GP records
Whilst any claim would need to be supported with a court compliant medical report it is helpful at the outset of your claim to obtain copies of GP and counselling records to assist your solicitor to understand the likely cause of you injuries and, if applicable, your mental health history.
David Miers and Maria Gough were instructed by our client to pursue a harassment claim against her former employer.
Our client worked as a Team Leader at a school. In 2018 a new Principal was appointed. Within a few months of the new Principal starting he began to behave inappropriately towards our client.
For example he would made comments about her body and appearance, ask for details of her sex life and indicate graphically that he found our client sexually attractive. All of this was done in a school context with students in the next room. Our client found this behaviour to be distressing and intimidating and despite asking him to stop his lewd comments he continued to harass our client unabated.
By 2020 our client was unable to cope with the impact of the Principal’s daily harassment of her. She was signed off sick by her GP and later resigned from her role.
Our client subsequently submitted a grievance about the treatment she experienced. The internal findings upheld that she had been harassed by the Principal.
Our client subsequently obtained new employment but the corresponding salary was significantly below what she had previously been earning.
How Setfords helped
Setfords were instructed in April 2020 for pursue a claim for harassment and consequential losses. Our client’s evidence was considered and the merits of her claim were clear from the outset. A letter of claim was then submitted to her former employer.
Our client’s claim was considered by the insurer for the School. The claim was denied and it was not accepted that our client had been harassed, despite the internal findings.
Setfords remained committed to the merits of our client’s claim and accordingly medical evidence was obtained from a Consultant Psychiatrist. The report was supportive and stated that our client had suffered a psychiatric injury as a result of the harassment by the School Principal. Despite liability being denied Setfords were able to secure the client a settlement of £40,000 without her having to go to Court.
David Miers was instructed by a former teacher to pursue a claim for occupational stress as a result of being overworked. Our client was an experienced teacher who was faced with excessive demands from the Senior Leadership Team which resulted in him having to work above and beyond his contractual hours without adequate support.
Our client had an initial absence from work in 2015 as a result of his unmanageable workload. However upon his return to work no changes were made.
In 2017/2018 our client’s school was subject to intervention from the Local Education Authority and the demands of the intervention team added pressure on top of our client’s existing workload.
In 2019 our client spoke with the Headteacher to advise that he was struggling with the pressure and workload. He expressly advised that as a result of which he was worried for his physical and mental health. Despite this, no action was taken by the Headteacher to support our client.
Our client went off sick in the 2018and subsequently was not well enough to return to his role. His employment was terminated the following year and he has now retrained.
How Setfords helped
Setfords were instructed in November 2019 for pursue a claim for occupational stress and consequential losses. Our client’s evidence was considered and the merits of his claim were clear from the outset. A letter of claim was then submitted to his former employer.
The employer’s letter of response denied liability for our client’s breakdown and stated that our client was not suited for the demands of teaching, accordingly no fault could rest with the employer.
Setfords remained committed to the merits of our client’s claim and accordingly medical evidence was obtained from a Consultant Psychiatrist and Court proceedings then issued. The Defendant’s defence continued in the same vein as the letter of response but ultimately the Defendant agreed to settle the claim for a six figure sum.
This is what he had to say about Setfords:
“I would like to thank the team at Setfords for all of their hard work and support whilst dealing with my claim. We have just reached a successful outcome which we could never have achieved without them. Particular thanks to David Miers, who has been thorough, clear, honest and professional throughout the entire process. I would recommend this company without a moment’s hesitation. Sincere thanks to all involved.”