PUBLISHED: 13:29 21 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:27 20 February 2013
Stress can be caused by many things, from marriage, divorce, bereavement, moving house or redundancy to life's daily pressures. And in difficult times such as those we currently face, stress levels increase for everyone
The old philosophy and attitude to stress used to be just pull yourself together or theres nothing wrong with you! Attitudes have changed significantly and stress is now seen as one of the major causes of illness within modern day society.
Although sadly with life events such as death, divorce and moving house there is little you can do to prevent them. You just have to rely on help and protection from the support of friends and family. There are, however, certain situations where you have the right to be protected from stress.
The workplace in itself is a stressful environment where you may have to deal with deadlines or the competing demands of your employers and customers, as well as hitting financial or other targets and at the same time getting on with all of your colleagues.
Sometimes through overwork or, for instance, a lack of support, you can become stressed. Stress in itself is not an illness but can lead to a whole host of illnesses, ranging from mild depression to complete psychiatric breakdowns. The complicating factor of our suffering stress at work is that this does sometimes mean that you are not in fact able to recognise that you are stressed but it can be apparent to other people.
When suffering from stress, the best thing, if you do recognise it, is always to take immediate action yourself, but your employer also has a duty to protect you from stress. This forms part of the employers duty to take care of their employees safety at work.
It started off originally as almost exclusively relating to physical injuries, but in recent years the law has developed to include a duty to protect employees from mental and psychological injuries which result from workplace stress through excessive workload, for example, or harassment and bullying.
A little bit of stress can be productive, as it provides an incentive and helps motivate us in work. However, like many things, it is only good in small doses.
The principals have been set down quite clearly in the law in cases such as Walker v Northumberland County Council, Sutherland v Hatton & Barber v Somerset County Council. The basic points of duty to consider are as follows:-
â– Is an employee stressed through their workload, general work situation or relationship with colleagues?
â– Is the employer aware of the fact that an employee is stressed or ought they to be aware?
â– Has the employer taken any reasonable steps to remove the cause of stress or alleviate the symptoms?
â– Has this stress resulted in a recognised psychiatric illness?
If it is shown that there has been stress caused through a failing of the employer which has resulted in illness, then there is potentially a claim to be made. To reduce the chance of a claim being made is quite easy in many ways and simply an employer has to act as a good employer, keep an eye on employees and see that there is nothing which is unreasonably stressing them.
Employers cannot always rely on employees to tell them that they have a problem. It is similar to a parent dealing with a child; we sometimes know something is wrong with them before they know it themselves. It is in everyones interest to avoid stress as it leads to a happier environment at work and home for the employee and a more motivated and more productive worker for the employer.
Allow the stress to continue and there is little more stressful than a claim being made against a company for stress.Then starts a vicious circle.
Matthew works in Whitehead Moncktons personal injury team, based in the firms Maidstone office. His principal way of avoiding stress himself is to go and take the dog for a walk and appear as an actor on stage.
For further information, tel: 01622 6988000 or 01580 765722.