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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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I am currently off work due to stress in work. I am suffer

Customer Question

I am currently off work due to stress in work. I am suffer with depression and anxiety due to a toxic working environment. I have worked for the council for 10 years and enjoyed my job visiting people who are accessing social care calculating costs for care and completing welfare benefits. There are five financial assessors and beside myself only one other full time assessor. I have frequently raised the levels of work in meetings and the inability to complete paper work. It was repeatedly stated by my manager that a particular employee always had a full diary and was on top of his work he was given the opportunity to work from home no discussion within the team based on his interest and him being held as a beacon of perfection. This again was untrue several assessors including myself showed interest. It was subsequently found that this employee was fabricating his visits and was claiming expenses for the bogus visits and had been for a number of years. The evidence was overwhelming and he admitted what he had done. Initially he was not suspended neither was the Police involved. The outcome was he was given a final written notice covering a period of two years and we were informed he was coming back to the office even though none of his colleagues wanted to work with him.Four out of five colleagues at the time were on anti depressants due to the stress of what now appears to be carrying a colleague who was guilty of fraud and percuniary advantage. We were given no choice but to accept the situation. On his return he spoke to no one on the team and began making complaints about various colleagues and myself. I approached my manager and asked what the allegation/complaint was and she refused to tell me. I pointed out that surely I had the right to know to answer the allegation. She relied aggressively that we were told not to talk about him behind his back to which I was and I admit angry I retorted with I told management I did not want to work with him and told her how unhappy I was. At this point I wanted to walk out and never return. He returned to work in the January of this year and the atmosphere is toxic.I frequently whilst in work had to go to the toilets to pull myself together as I felt very weepy it was unbearable and unbelievable. My colleague has been allowed and facilitated to behave in this way by poor management. My manager has had scathing reports about her poor management skills and yet still is enabled to proceed. Since working for my manager I could list many acts of poor management. I will give you two when I first started at the council I was given contracts and saw that the initial salary offered had increased as it was within a scale I assumed my vast experience accounted for this. Shortly after starting work I did overtime. I presume my manager had gone to HR to hand the over time hours in and had realised I had been put on the wrong salary scale. She came back and asked could she have a word this was on a Friday and stated I had been put on the wrong salary scale and would have to sign new contracts. I pointed out that this was not my fault. She then pointed out I was in my probationary period. I again stated this was not my fault and due to the veiled threat I would need time to find a new job she said leave it with her. I was a single parent with a mortgage and was worried sick on the Tuesday she came to me and said it was okay. From that day on she would pick up on anything. My father died and having nursed mum with cancer and two years later dealing with dad with dementia and then his death I had a break down and continued to work dropped a day because I was so low. I eventually went to counselling and it meant taking two hours each week off work and I was explaining to my sister in law who stated I should ask to see occupational health as I was taking steps to avoid going off sick. I approached my manager and explained I could not make the hours up and surely as I was taking steps to avoid sickness then I should be allowed to attend . She stated no I would have to take it in my own time then I stated I wanted to be referred to occupational health immediately she said leave it with me and eventually she got back to me several days later for me to just attend the counselling. Sorry about the length of this email. To cut a long story short I have been off sick since July 2016 with stress. I have detailed in an email to my temporary manager The stress of working in this toxic environment has taken its toll on my mental health and cannot go on. I requested an occupational health appointment and I attended at the beginning of August and explained fully what had been happening and how ill I felt.I was advised that until management addressed this situation I should remain off work as to go back would probably mean another length of sickness. To date it was muted I would be sent a letter inviting me for a chat to date nothing.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.


Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

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.

This is your basic legal position. I have more detailed advice for you in terms of the option of constructive dismissal, which I wish to discuss so please take a second to leave a positive rating for the service so far (by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars) and I can continue with that and answer any further questions you may have. Don’t worry, there is no extra cost and leaving a rating will not close the question and we can continue this discussion. Thank you

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
You have actually not addressed my concerns regarding being forced to work with a colleague who has committed fraud and in turn as abused every colleague on the team particularly myself as I was the only other full time worker. My confidence has been continually eroded by being constantly being compared to a fraudster who was actually sat at home claiming wages and expenses for bogus visits. No one from HR has every addressed the fact that none of his colleagues wish to work with him this was imposed and they were well aware of our feelings. Since coming back he has been monitoring the team making complaints which I personal was told I had no right to know what he had complained about before. The atmosphere is toxic and due incompetent management continues.You have told me what I already know and I feel you have not read the information I provided.I have got the information regarding a grievance but feel I am fighting against corporate bullying. I would rate the reply as 2 star
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

Hi there I did read the information provided but being forced to work with this person does not allow you to challenge it in any other way apart from the way I already discussed, namely through a grievance and potentially constructive dismissal. So that is why there was not much else I could say about that particular aspect because the only ways to challenge this we already covered. Hope this clarifies?