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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 49806
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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My apologies in advance if this is a bit long, but I feel my

Customer Question

My apologies in advance if this is a bit long, but I feel my question needs a bit of back story so you'll understand it.
I've been working for this one company for nearly 13 year and have been promoted from sales assistant to buyer and am currently a stock controller which is a position that was specifically made for me due to an acknowledgement of my skills in that area and the growing need for the role based on the growth of the business. Also, while a buyer I was even granted an award for the notable improvement in sales in the film department I was in charge of buying for. During my time as stock controller, based on my experience as sales assistant and buyer and now stock controller, I developed systems that improved both my work efficiency and those of my colleagues as I attempted to see things from all angles since I have had experience working in this company from different angles.
After about a year of being stock controller by myself and seeing the business is still growing and my work load along with it, the managers I had at the time saw it necessary for me to have an assistant to help with stock control. This is now about 5 years ago that I first had an assistant. My workload and responsibilities have since continued to expand and I've even been given two pay-rises over the last five year but my recent requests for more aid to help with the role have been denied principally due to the lack of company funds since the overall decline in retail over the last few years and the change in shopping trends due to new technologies has had a notable negative impact on our business and our shop as well as other divisions of the company have been hit with redundancies a number of times in recent years as a result.
We have also recently taken on a new EPOS system and in the process one of the key parts of my role was taken over by finance of the company based in our head office and most of the core systems I had implemented to improve efficiency in our store's daily operations have been scrapped and replaced by new systems that seem to only suit the need of the finance department that took it over so consequently my role that was already proving too much is now even worse because we've lost many routines and procedures that enabled us to do our jobs efferently. And now, to make matters worse, management have decided to add another department to our store that is adding more workload to my role and they are also asking my assistant to help out in this new department for many hours in the week. And on top of this we are now being moved in to two smaller rooms in which to try and do our jobs and store all our stock when things are already falling apart and no one seems to be able to do their jobs properly.
So basically, after all this I feel like I'm having a nervous break-down and am getting more and more depress and stressed at work but in the current job climate I feel trapped and unable to leave for another job especially since after being with this company for nearly 13 years I've accrued a nice amount of holiday days and have a pension plan with the company and I've not seen any other jobs I'm qualified for advertised that pay what I'm currently being paid even though it's only just enough for me to live on in the current London economic climate.
I guess my question is, do I have any legal right to demand better working conditions or sue for emotional distress and negative impact on my metal and physical health or anything legal protection and recourse to prevent me from completely snapping and doing something that would get me fired or end up homeless. My company doesn't even recognise a union so we can't even strike or anything and I really don't know what legal rights I have to stick up for myself and look after my metal and physical health.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
Hello have you raised any of this with the employer in an official way?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I'm not sure what constitutes "Official" but I've mentioned my levels of stress an inability to work under the current conditions to both my line managers but it seems they are being blocked to make any of the necessary changes by those above them and any changes my line manager has agreed to or at least said he'd consider have not come to fruition. Again this seems to be because of others in the company that seem to have more authority than them. My line manager has even acknowledged in a group meeting with a the more senior members of staff like myself that we are all working in an untenable situation and he is trying to get an assistant for the newly added department and negotiate a third office space in our building since even he can see that we won't be able to function in the smaller spaces we are being allocated, but again nothing is promised or made "official". It's always just talk.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
Hello, this is a situation which certainly looks like a case of unreasonable working practices and stress caused as a result. 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.
• 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 hope this has answered your query. I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating (3, 4 or 5 stars) as that is an important part of our process and recognises the time I have spent assisting you. 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
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
My full response should be visible on this page. Could you please let me know if it has answered your original question or whether you need me to clarify anything else in relation to this? If your query has been answered 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. Thank you