Blue Monday: What to do When Work Stress Becomes a Health Issue

Melanie Burden Personal Injury Solicitor
Author:
Melanie Burden
Partner, Head of Employer's Liability - Serious Injury
Date:
17/01/2022

Did you know that stress at work can cause significant mental and physical health problems? If you’re suffering from workplace stress, you can get legal help.

 

Christmas is over and you’re back at work. The nights are still long and dark, the mornings still cold and miserable. You’ve quit drinking, cut out food that contains calories and e-numbers, and your social calendar is sparse, to say the least.

It’s no wonder that the 3rd Monday in January has been crowned ‘Blue Monday’.

For many, Blue Monday is made worse by feeling stressed at work.

The anxiety people feel after having time off over Christmas often exacerbates this stress, but many employers fail to recognise this in their employees. Instead, preferring to attack the new year with vigour and resolve to meet even tighter KPI’s, reach even higher goals and make even more sales.

This can leave employees feeling anxious, stressed and depressed.

Prevention is the best strategy for managing mental health in the workplace. The government's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched a "Working Minds" campaign in November 2021 to encourage employers to promote good mental health in the workplace.

The campaign is calling for a culture change across Britain’s workplaces to ensure that psychological risks are treated the same as physical ones in health and safety risk management.

If your employer fails to address your work-related stress and you develop a mental or physical injury as a result, you could be entitled to make a Personal Injury claim.

Talk to our specialist team of Personal Injury Solicitors to see how they can help.

Call us on 0808 239 3227 or request a callback

What counts as work-related stress?

In 2021 stress at work accounted for 50% of all work-related ill health cases.

But what is work-related stress, what causes it and how do you know if you’re suffering from it?

Work-related stress is a physical or emotional response to feeling pressured into completing tasks that you feel you can’t do. You might not have the time, support, resources or knowledge to complete certain duties, and according to medical experts, this can trigger feelings of stress and anxiety.

If workplace stress isn’t dealt with, it can lead to long-term mental health problems such as depression or mental trauma, as well as increase the risk of health issues like ulcers or heart disease.

What causes work-related stress?

Work-place stress can be caused by a number of factors such as:

  • long hours due to excessive workloads;
  • too much responsibility;
  • job insecurity;
  • feeling like you have no control;
  • a lack of job satisfaction, boredom or isolation;
  • difficult relationships with work colleagues or management.

How do you know if you’re suffering from work-related stress?

Workplace stress can show itself in many ways: From emotional feelings to physical symptoms. Some of these feelings and symptoms can manifest themselves in:

  • headaches;
  • heart palpitations;
  • difficulty sleeping;
  • depression;
  • anxiety;
  • irritability or aggression;
  • feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope;
  • not being able to concentrate or make decisions;
  • reduced creativity;
  • a drop in performance;
  • lower tolerance for people and tasks;
  • disinterest.

Your employer is responsible for your health and wellbeing whilst you’re at work. And, as workplace stress is one of the biggest causes of ill health, if you’re suffering from any of the above, they should be doing something to help you: It’s their duty of care.

What should your employer be doing to stop work-related stress?

The law says that employers are responsible for the safety of their employees while they are at work, and this includes stress.” – Unison

It’s your employer’s duty of care to make sure that you feel safe and stress-free whilst you’re at work.

This means that they should be proactively preventing anything that causes you ill health, brought on by work-place stress. Employers should carry out risk assessments to minimize the risk of stress and stress related illness in their employees. They should take steps to identify and remove all sources of stress by making sure that:

  • the workload is normal for the role;
  • the demands placed on you are no higher than those placed on your colleagues, doing a similar role;
  • they check in with you regularly to make sure you’re not showing any symptoms of stress, like the ones listed above.

It’s important to remember that work-related stress is a significant health and safety issue and if your employer isn’t doing enough to prevent stress in the workplace, you can take action.

What to do if your employer isn’t stopping work-related stress

If you’re suffering from work-related stress, and you believe that your employer isn’t aware, the first thing to do is talk to them. Give them the chance to intervene and help you. They should encourage you to talk with your GP to see if any reasonable adjustments are recommended and work with you where reasonable adjustments are possible to your role whilst you are suffering from stress.

However, if your employer fails to respond to your workplace stress and, as a result, you find yourself suffering from a psychiatric injury (such as depression or mental trauma) or a physical injury that has been caused or made worse by the stress, you could be entitled to make a claim against them for negligence:

Once an employer knows that a worker is or may be at risk of injury, they must investigate the problem and find out what they can do to resolve it.” - Unison

Unfortunately, claims for stress at work-related injury are hard to prove. The courts have set out established principles that need to be satisfied including: 

  • proving that the psychiatric illness or injury was caused by a breach of duty by the employer;
  • proving that the employer knew or should've known that as a result of the stress at work there was a real risk of injury;
  • proving that the employee is suffering from a recognised psychiatric illness;
  • proving that the type of work/workplace was always likely to result in the employee suffering from a recognised psychiatric injury;
  • proving that the employer knew or should've known that the employee was exposed to a risk that could cause a psychiatric injury;

To find out more, contact our specialist team of Personal Injury Lawyers

If we can take your case on, we’ll deal with it on a No Win, No Fee basis. This means you won’t need to pay us any legal fees unless we secure you the compensation you need to recover and get back to leading a healthy and happy work-life balance.

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