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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 50202
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor
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I had a nervous breakdown at work two months ago, I went to

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I had a nervous breakdown at work two months ago, I went to the doctor the next day who diagnosed "reactive depression caused by occupational stress" I have been signed off sick ever since. my employers paid my salary for the first month, but i am now getting only SSP
I have had two meetings with my employers in the last 2 months, they seem keen for me to go back, but have not dealt with issues which caused the problem in the first place.
They have offered me a slightly less stressful job but at almost half my original salary.
What are my legal rights & could I have a claim for personal injury?
P.S. The only reason for my illness was the job, I have no other problems in my life.


Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. How long have you worked there for?


Hi Ben, just over 8 years

Ben Jones :

ok let me get my response ready please



Ben Jones :

Whilst stress in the workplace is becoming an ever-increasing problem, no specific legislation deals with it. The rights of employees in these circumstances are scattered across various legislation and common law examples.


A good starting point is to look at The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and related statutory instruments, which impose a general duty on employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees. This includes a duty to undertake risk assessments and manage activities to reduce the incidence of stress at work. In addition, under common law an employer owes a duty of care towards its employees, the breach of which can amount to negligence.


As no standalone claim exists for being exposed to stress, the affected employees have the following options open to them if they were going to challenge their employer over this:


1. Grievance - this is a formal internal complaint, following which the employer is obliged to investigate the issues and deal with them in an appropriate manner. It should always be the first step in trying to bring the problem to the employer's attention and to try and reach a resolution.


2. Constructive dismissal - this occurs where the employee resigns because they feel they were left with no other option in the circumstances. Further considerations include:

  • It must be shown that the employer had acted in breach of the implied terms to provide a safe system of work or through their actions (or inactions) had broken the mutual trust and confidence

  • The breach relied on must be sufficiently serious to justify instant resignation

  • This claim is only available to those with at least 2 years' continuous service with their employer and must be made within 3 months of resigning.


3. Personal Injury - this is a claim for negligence against the employer. Further considerations include:

  • Some recognised illness must have been suffered. This could include clinical depression, specific trauma stress, a physical injury (e.g. stroke), etc.

  • The illness must have been caused directly by the employer's negligence, such as failing to appropriately deal with managing stress in the workplace

  • The illness must have been reasonably foreseeable - for example if the employee experienced one breakdown, that would have indicated to the employer that there is a problem and that further issues could arise if things were not dealt with appropriately.

  • The time limit to claim is 3 years from the time the injury was suffered.


In the first instance, I would advise going down the grievance route first and only consider pursuing legal action as a last resort if it is evident that the matter cannot be resolved in any other way.



Is there any obligation for the employer to pay any more than 1 months salary if the illness is job related

Ben Jones :

No, I am afraid ou are only entitled to your contractual sick pay entitlement, regardless of the reasons for your absence


one final question, I know I signed a contract of employment, but was never given a copy, should I have one legally

Ben Jones :

Yes you may certainly ask for a copy of this contract - you and the employer are both entitled to have a copy so if you have not been issued with one you may certainly ask them for one now


thank you Ben, most helpfull

Ben Jones :

You are most welcome, all the best

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