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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 50181
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor
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If a situation at work has caused a colleague to be off with

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If a situation at work has caused a colleague to be off with long term stress and the company is aware of this but has done nothing to improve the situation and I then succumb to stress, do I have a case that my company has knowingly caused this?
Hello, my name is***** am a solicitor on this site and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. How long have you worked there for and what were the reasons for the stress?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I work for BT, I used to be with a different part of BT, I joined the company in September 2012 but transferred to this part in January 2014, it was supposed to be treated as a transfer so I keep my seniority date etc but recent paperwork I've seen seen says January 2014. The reasons are that we have been understaffed for as long as I have worked there. To my mind the 24x7 rota that we work really needs 8 to provide cover for leave etc, they seem to think that 8 was sufficient and that we could cover the leave dates with overtime from the other members. Last year we had 8 then one left in September last year, then another in February and as a result of us being short staffed we have one member that has been off with stress since February so we have been running with 5 since then. 12 hour shifts with no break as we are usually on our own with an increasing workload and no support from management.

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 employee has 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. Similarly, if someone else doing the same job has been off with stress that should have placed the employer on notice that it is reasonably foreseeable others may be affected too.
• 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.
I trust this has answered your query. I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating (selecting 3, 4 or 5 starts at the top of the page). If for any reason you are unhappy with my response or if you need me to clarify anything before you go - please get back to me on here and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you
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