The scale of the problem.

Some say that occupational stress is the back injury of the 21st century, such is its prevalence. Looking at the statistics published by the Labour Force Survey on 31st October 2018 it is easy to understand why.

  • 595,000 workers were suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18.
  • 4 million working days were lost as a result.
  • It accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases and 57% of all working days lost due to ill health.
  • The economic cost is around £8.5 billion a year.

Don’t simply take my word for it. The General Secretary of the TUC, Frances O’Grady, says: “Work-related stress is a growing epidemic. It’s time employers and the Government took it more seriously. Warm words are not going to fix this problem. Managers need to do far more to reduce the causes of stress and support employees struggling to cope. This means tackling issues like excessive workloads and bullying in the office. Toxic workplaces are bad for staff and productivity.”

Dr Carole Easton, chief executive of Young Women’s Trust, says: “Many young people, especially young women, are facing huge pressures in the workplace and mental health concerns are skyrocketing. Low pay, insecure work and workplace inequalities are leaving young women struggling to make ends meet and impacting on their mental health. When we have surveyed young people, half of young women said their work has had a negative impact on their mental health.”

Duncan Spencer, from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, says: “Evidence continues to grow about the negative impacts of poor mental health at work. Poor mental well-being caused by stress, depression and anxiety accounts for a very high proportion of sickness absences in the UK, despite legal and moral imperatives for employers to manage psychosocial risks in the workplace.”

Courtesy of EU Directive 90/269/EEC the 1990’s saw a revolution in our approach to manual handling in the workplace, which brought prosperity to the manufacturers and retailers of lifting and carrying equipment, and created a regiment of lawyers keen to capitalise on avoidable back injuries suffered at work. This blog is a call to arms to lawyers. Until employers are fearful of receiving a letter of claim then the problem will not be abated.

Not all work-place stress gives rise to an actionable claim, but many potential claims are being missed though ignorance. This blog aims to contribute to a greater understanding of what constitutes a viable claim, and the measures that managers should adopt to protect their workforce from becoming psychiatrically damaged by their role or environment.