A Guide to Claiming Stress at Work Compensation
Updated: Sep 2, 2019
The following guide takes you through what you should know about making a successful stress at work compensation claim.
The last thing you need is more stress
If you have suffered from stress at work as a result of excessive workload, pressure, harassment, bullying or poor working conditions, you may be eligible for compensation.
Without specialist knowledge, however, workplace stress claims can be difficult to win. For this reason, many solicitors will not take on stress at work cases.
Our expert solicitors have years of experience winning stress at work claims across the UK. Cases are handled with the utmost sensitivity and the process is designed to minimise any stress involved in making a claim.
Contact Quittance to arrange a free and confidential initial consultation. Speak with a solicitor, by phone or Skype and find out if you could be eligible to receive compensation.
Calls are handled in the strictest confidence.
You are not alone
The latest statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal that there were nearly 500,000 stress related claims made between 2015 and 2016.
This number is most likely the tip of the iceberg with many cases being unreported. Many workers suffer in silence.
According to HSE data, over half a million workers suffer from work-related stress, and 11.7 million workdays are lost every year as a result.
The majority of cases are wholly avoidable.
What is the definition of stress at work?
The HSE defines workplace stress as:
“the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other demands placed on them”.
In practice, stress can mean many different things depending on the person and on the circumstances.
Signs of workplace stress
Signs of stress will vary from job to job and from person to person.
Just because one employee seems able to cope with a certain extra responsibility or extra pressure, it does not mean that everyone in the same role can or should be expected to cope.
What one worker might think is friendly banter might be hurtful and anxiety-inducing to another.
Signs that an team might be suffering from stress include:
- Lower performance
- Absences and sick days
- A rise in complaints and grievances
- Arguments with colleagues
Individuals may be experiencing higher levels of stress if their behaviour changes, meaning:
- More time off
- A loss of confidence
- Heightened emotions, being more sensitive or aggressive
Employers must recognise the signs of stress in their staff and act to reduce or remove the causes.
Factors that commonly contribute to work-related stress include:
- A lack of adequate training
- Too much pressure
- Unrealistic and last-minute deadlines
- Uncertainty over job security
- Company reorganisation and relocation
Who can be affected?
Anyone could be affected by stress, from new starters to management.
Some jobs are perceived to be inherently more stressful, such as teaching and healthcare roles, but that does not mean that the duty of care that employers owe to their staff is any less.
HSE data suggests that public sector jobs are most likely to be affected by work-related stress, including:
- Nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers
- Carers, social care and welfare staff
Quittance have also assisted people suffering from stress in occupations including senior management, prison officers, social workers, ambulance drivers, firefighters, policemen, dentists, miners and administrative and office workers.
If your health and well-being has been harmed by the actions or negligence of your employer, it is possible to make a claim for work-related stress, whatever your job.
An employer's duty of care to staff
Just as employees must be protected against the risk of physical injury, employers also have a 'duty of care' to safeguard their workers from the causes and effects of stress at work.
A company must have processes in place to:
- Protect workers from the likely causes of stress
- Recognise when an employee is suffering from workplace stress
- Remove or reduce causes of stress
- Support an employee with their recovery
- Carry out regular assessments and update procedures as required
If processes are not in place, or they are ineffective or ignored, and you develop work-related stress as a result, you may be entitled to compensation.
Do I have a work-related stress claim?
In order to make a successful claim for stress at work, your solicitor will need to prove:
- You have developed work-related stress
- Your employer is liable for this harm
Your solicitor will usually arrange for you to see a medical specialist, so they can understand the impact the stress has had on your life.
This assessment is needed to calculate your compensation. The medical specialist will either come to you, or they will be local.
In addition to you being diagnosed with stress or a similar condition, your solicitor must also find out what caused your stress. If they can prove that your employer was responsible, you should be able to claim.
Examples of evidence that your employer may be responsible include:
- Your manager knew you were stressed, but no action was taken.
- You have been given an excessive workload without support.
- You made a complaint about a colleague's abusive or stress-causing behaviour, but nothing has been done.
- You have been unreasonably refused time off or been put under pressure to work when sick.
- You have returned to work after time off for stress or injury, but no changes have been made to your working conditions or job role.
You may have up to six years to make a workplace stress claim
Unlike personal injury claims like road accidents, where you only have three years to claim, employees may have up to six years to make a claim for work-related stress.
Where the claim relates to harassment, bullying or similar circumstances, you may have up to six years to claim compensation. However, it can be difficult to determine whether a three- or six-year limit will apply, and this will depend on the individual facts of the case.
A longer period of time may be allowed partly because it can be difficult to come forward and make a claim for stress during what is inescapably a very stressful time.
The courts recognise that it is often impossible to expect someone experiencing or recovering from extreme stress to face making a claim.
The amount of money you could claim for your stress at work will depend on:
- the extent of your injury, and
- any financial losses or costs you have incurred.
At the start of your claim, your solicitor will consider the many ways your stress at work has affected your life. Your solicitor will take all of these effects into account to calculate the correct compensation award for you.
This calculation will factor in general damages and special damages.
General damages are awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA).
Awards for general damages are set by the Judicial College and published in their guidelines for personal injury awards.
Special damages are for financial losses and expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident.
See a list of what you can claim for:
Examples of special damages include:
- Lost earnings (including future earnings)
- Medical treatment costs
- Travel costs
- Costs of care
- Costs of adapting your home or car
Stress At Work compensation amounts
The following stress at work payouts refer to the Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases, Fourteenth Edition by the Judicial College.
|Psychiatric harm||Minor||Falling short of phobia or with minor symptoms||£1,220 to £4,670|
|Psychiatric harm||Moderate||marked improvement and good prognosis||£4,670 to £15,200|
|Psychiatric harm||Serious||Significant with work-related stress with no prospect of returning to work||£15,200 to £43,710|
|Psychiatric harm||Severe||Severe poor prognosis for recovery||£43,710 to £92,240|
Find out what your claim could be worth now
Assessing a claim's value at the outset can be complicated.
If you would like a FREE claim estimate with no obligation to start a claim, call 0800 612 7456.
Alternatively, our compensation calculator will give you an instant estimate of what your claim is worth.
Caring and sensitive support
Your solicitor will handle your stress at work case from the initial consultation through to the financial settlement. In addition, your solicitor will work with other specialists to help you with:
- Financial support: interim payments while you are unable to work.
- Advice: on personal injury trusts, tax and welfare benefits.
- Coordination: with rehabilitation providers and therapists.
- Access: to treatment and therapies not always available on the NHS.
Give your claim the best chance of success
Quittance understand that the prospect of a claim for compensation can be daunting.
This is particularly true if you are already suffering from stress. The last thing you may want to face is the prospect of being additionally stressed about the claim itself.
Your solicitor will support you every step of the way, and will help you to gather the evidence that can assist your claim, including:
- medical records
- letters and emails you have written to management about your health
- statements from witnesses
- text messages to or from colleagues.
Will you have to go to Court?
Very unlikely. This is one of the most common questions people ask. Understandably, most people do not wish to relive their experience in a courtroom.
In reality, the vast majority of claims never go near a courtroom. Most of the time a settlement is reached before reaching that stage.
Once the facts have been established, an employer is unlikely to want to incur the expense of legal fees. Our solicitors will always work towards achieving the best possible out-of-court settlement for you, and as quickly as possible
Stress at work FAQs
Can I make a claim if I have left the company?
Yes. The standard claim limitation period still stands even if you have left the company. Personal injury claims must be filed within 3 years of the injury. In the case of stress related claims, this period may be extended to 6 years.
Can I claim if I am still working at the company?
Yes. As long as you are within the limitation period you can make a claim. Note that it is illegal for your employer to discriminate against an employee or job candidate for making a claim
Will making a claim for stress affect my career?
One of the concerns some people have is that making a claim for workplace stress could jeopardise their job, or harm their future prospects.
“It is unlawful to discriminate against an employee or job candidate for making a claim”
By law, companies must also have employers' liability insurance in place. This insurance will pay out in the event of a successful claim, so the company will not have to pay your compensation directly.
If you feel you may be discriminated against, or someone has made threats against you or your job if you do make a claim, it is even more important that you speak to a solicitor.
On an entirely confidential basis, a solicitor will be able to explain your rights, and help you to make a claim through the right channels. This will help to protect your health and wellbeing in the short term by reducing the risk of additional stress and confusion. In the longer term, getting the right legal advice at each step of the process will help to protect your job and your future career.
What kinds of workplace stress can I claim for?
Depression and anxiety at work
If you have become depressed or anxious as the result of your work, you may also be entitled to compensation.
Your employer has a duty to reduce or remove the factors that are harming your mental health, and if they fail to do so promptly, they may be liable for a claim.
Recovering from depression and anxiety
Unlike some types of more easily-alleviated stress, work-related anxiety or depression can mean a long road to improvement and recovery. Your employer also owes you a duty to do whatever they reasonably can to support your recovery. This can be the case even where the initial causes of the condition were not work-related, but you have found that your work is affecting your recovery.
“Presenteeism” is a term that describes cases where workers are expected to work longer hours that their official job states. This can be particularly harmful when staff are worried about losing their job if they aren't seen to be staying at their desk and working late.
Unspoken expectations about working long hours and “going the extra mile” can be difficult to face up to at work. You may not even realise that you work conditions directly correlate to a decline in your health.
If unreasonable pressure to work later or longer hours has harmed your health, you may be able to claim compensation.
Tiredness and exhaustion
Tiredness and exhaustion can have a serious impact on focus and productivity. It is also often found to be a factor in workplace accidents.
Employers must take action to protect their staff against the consequences of tiredness. Where they fail to do so, and an employee's mental or physical health is affected as a result, it may be possible to make a claim.
Uncertain economic times can make it more difficult for companies to plan for and cope with changing demand. Unexpected departures, maternity leave or changes in management can also mean that fewer staff are expected to do more work.
Whether by hiring more staff, changing hours or improving efficiency, your employer has a duty to mitigate the impact of extra work to ensure the burden does not become overwhelming.
If your health has been affected by an unreasonable increase in the amount of work you are expected to do, or by unrealistic targets, you may be able to claim compensation.
Failure to make adjustments due to health conditions
Whatever the cause of a worker's mental health condition, their employer should take what steps they reasonably can to accommodate the worker's needs.
The employer may need to change shifts or shorten working hours, make changes to the work environment or educate staff. If steps are not taken, and this affects your recovery or causes your health to get even worse, you may be able to claim compensation.
Failure to adhere to disciplinary or grievance processes
To comply with employment laws and health and safety regulations, employees must have HR processes in place like disciplinary and grievance procedures. However, it is not enough to simply have written these down in a staff handbook. These procedures must be carefully and fairly applied in practice.
A manager or HR officer may have failed to properly carry out a company procedure, either by taking short cuts, failing to notify you of important steps and decisions, or by failing to handle a case fairly.
If your health has suffered or worsened as a result of a failure to properly apply HR procedures, you may be able to claim compensation. This is the case even if you were “guilty” of the reason for disciplinary action in the first place.
No win, no fee - the facts
No win, no fee means that your solicitor will not charge you any legal fees if your stress at work claim is unsuccessful. 'No win, no fee' is also called a 'Conditional Fee Agreement' or 'CFA'.
No win, no fee promise
If you have been injured through no fault of your own, our no win, no fee guarantee takes the risk out of making a stress at work injury compensation claim.
What do I pay if I win my stress at work claim?
Your injury solicitor will receive a success fee which is deducted from your compensation, after your compensation is awarded. The solicitor's success fee can be up to 25%. You and your solicitor can agree the success fee before you start your claim.
What do I pay if I do not win my stress at work claim?
If your stress at work claim is not successful then you do not have to pay any legal fees whatsoever.
How can Quittance help?
Our highly experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning injury claims. Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you.
If you have any questions, or would like to start a No Win No Fee claim, we are open 8am to 9pm weekdays, 9am to 6pm on Saturday, and 9.30am to 5pm on Sunday.
Call us FREE 0800 612 7456 or arrange a callback:Call me back
No Win, No Fee
to start a claim
Stress At Work FAQ's
Can I claim for someone else?
Yes. In certain circumstances, it is possible to claim compensation on behalf of another person in the capacity of a 'litigation friend'.
If an injured person is either too young or vulnerable, too injured or otherwise unable to claim on their own behalf, their litigation friend can handle the claim process on behalf of the injured person.
The litigation friend will be responsible for communicating with the solicitors, and for making decisions in respect of the claim.
Can I claim if I was partly responsible for an accident?
You may still be able to claim compensation even if you contributed to your accident or to your injuries.
However, if you were partly to blame (known as contributory negligence), your compensation may be reduced and it may be more difficult to prove liability.
How long will my claim take?
The length of time needed to secure compensation can vary considerably.
For example, straightforward car accident claims can settle in a matter of weeks, whereas complex medical negligence cases can take years.
Injury claims can also take longer if it is not clear who is responsible for your injury, or if liability is denied by the defendant.
Taken from average case times, this table sets out approximately how long personal injury claims take to settle:
Personal injury claim type
Estimated claim duration*
4 to 9 months
6 to 9 months
12 to 36 months
12 to 18 months
6 to 9 months
3 to 4 months**
12 to 18 months**
**Official Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) Government agency and Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) figures.
Will I have to go to court?
Highly unlikely. The vast majority of claims that are settled by Quittance’s solicitor panel are settled out of court.
Only a very small percentage (approx. 5%) of personal injury claims go to court. Generally, only very complex cases, or those where liability cannot be resolved, end up in court.
Cases that do ultimately go to court are held in front of a judge, not a jury.
Will I have to go to a solicitor's office?
No. You will not need visit a solicitor's office. As with most professional services, it is no longer necessary to meet face to face with your solicitor. Personal injury claims are dealt with via email, post and telephone.
Should you need to have a medical, this will be arranged at a medical centre near you or at your GP's surgery.
Can I get an interim compensation payment?
If you suffer financial hardship as a result of an injury, you may be able to claim interim compensation payments.
An interim payment is a partial settlement of your claim which is paid before your claim is concluded. The amount you receive in interim payments would then be deducted from your final compensation settlement or award.
About the author
Gaynor Haliday is an experienced legal researcher and published author. She has had numerous articles published in the press and is a legal industry commentator.
Read more about this Quittance Legal Expert