Tuesday, November 04, 2008

National Stress Awareness Day – Wednesday 5 November

I’m not sure that it is a good idea to have a National Awareness day on Stress on November 5th?

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot “ is far more likely to catch the imagination than trying to encourage folk to “Remember, Remember... the HSE stress managements standards”.

But the first Wednesday in November for the past 10 years has been designated as this day by the International Stress Management Association (ASMAuK).

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) support this event on their website (here). This year's theme is "Don't Worry Take Action". While the idea is right that workers should not be passive but take action if they are stressed, if you don’t have access to strong local unions then workers will not take “action” since they will not feel powerful enough. Also, free massages, stress counselling, blood tests etc are fine and dandy, but do not absolve the employer of organisational responsibility for making sure their employees do not become ill due to occupational stress. Some employer's will not address structural problems in the workplace that cause stress and try to put the responsibility back on the employee.

I found this judgement below about a latest case useful. The worker had complained about stress and just because the employer provided access to confidential counselling it is not enough to protect them from a claim for liability. This might make claims against negligent employer's more easier in the future and of course may make them take stress more seriously.

Stress at Work Claims

The Court of Appeal has handed down its decision in Dickens v O2 plc, dismissing O2’s appeal against the trial judge’s finding that O2 was liable for stress induced personal injury suffered by one of its employees.Whilst purporting to apply the guidance given in Hatton v Sutherland, the Court's application of that guidance to the facts before them arguably indicated that the requirements of reasonable foreseeability, breach and causation may not be as difficult for claimants to satisfy as a strict reading of Hatton may have suggested.

In relation to reasonable foreseeability, it was sufficient that the employee had previously complained about the stress of her job, had been coming into work late on a regular basis, and had told her line manager that she did not know how long she could keep going before she would become ill;

In relation to breach of duty, O2 ought to have sent its employee home pending urgent investigation by occupational health, even in circumstances where she had not been signed off sick by her GP. The Court held that the mere suggestion of confidential counselling was not an adequate response to a situation where an employee was complaining of severe stress;
In relation to causation, the Court inferred a sufficient causal connection between the breach and the illness, finding the series of failings by O2 to address her problems had materially contributed to her illness.

Check out this post on stress and trade union solicitors Thompsons


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John Gray said...

belated thanks Geri