Last year, 12.5 million working days were lost to work related stress and one in six adults experience depression, anxiety or issues relating to stress at any one time.

Britons put in an average of 40 days unpaid overtime a year, making their working hours the longest hours in Europe. These long hours and a heavy workload can result in levels of stress that people believe are making them ill.

A certain amount of pressure at work can be motivating but when it becomes too much, it can lead to work related stress. The Health & Safety Executive describe stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other demands placed on them”.


Some of the most common causes of stress are:

  • Dealing with the public or customers
  • Worried about job security
  • Receiving a formal warning
  • Poor working conditions
  • Victimisation, harassment and bullying
  • Worrying about childcare
  • Unable to vary your work or suggest new methods
  • Increased workload and deadlines
  • Monotonous or repetitive work
  • Lack of adequate training
  • Excessive hours and shift work
  • Frustration with poor management
  • management changes


Symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Backaches
  • Skin rashes and ulcers
  • Palpitations
  • Loss of appetite for food and sex

If you recognise any of these symptoms you should consult your doctor immediately. He may diagnose that you are suffering from a work related stress disorder and if your employer has been negligent in either not protecting you in the first instance or failing to take preventative action when the matter was later raised.

Employer’s responsibilities:

Employers have a duty, under the health & Safety at Work Act 1974, to protect the safety and welfare of their employees and this includes conducting risk assessments for work related stress.
Good health can sometimes depend on good stress management as stress can lead to smoking and increased drinking which in turn can lead to a higher risk of heart disease.

Making a claim:

It is sometimes difficult to bring a claim for compensation as the employer is entitled to assume that his employees are coping with the normal pressures of their work if they are not notified otherwise by the employee bringing the situation to their attention.

To bring a successful claim it is necessary to prove:

  • That the employer failed to provide a safe working environment
  • That the work posed a reasonably foreseeable threat of psychological illness that the employer knew of or should have known
  • That the employer failed to take reasonable and adequate measures to prevent or reduce the risk of psychological harm to the employee
  • That the employee’s psychiatric injury was a result of, or was contributed to by, the work he did and the employer’s breach of duty
  • That the work caused a recognised psychiatric illness such as clinical depression
  • That the stress at work was clearly the cause of the illness
  • That the employer was aware of the difficulties you were experiencing at work and that you were not coping
  • That the employer failed to help you even when aware of your situation


Stress at work

Please click here for a detailed article on the need to clearly disclose mental health issues to an employer. The article was not written by Thomas Dunton.

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