A guide to stress at work compensation claims

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.

We do.

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.

Read more: Are there any risks involved in suing your employer?

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:

  • Teachers
  • 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?

Do I have a 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.

Read more: Can my personal injury medical be carried out locally?

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.

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

Will my personal injury claim go to court and what happens if it does?

How to start a claim with our no win, no fee solicitors

Book a Free initial phone consultation with one of our expert stress claim solicitors

Free initial consultation in which our solicitors will:

  • discuss your circumstances
  • examine any documents you have, e.g. emails
  • tell you if you have a claim
  • explain the chances of winning
  • give you an idea of how much compensation you could receive

This consultation can be carried out over the phone, or if you prefer over a Skype video call.

Your dedicated solicitor - with you throughout the process

If you decide that you would like to pursue a claim, you will be assigned a dedicated solicitor with a specialism in handling stress related claims.

Your solicitor will take control of the case and will be there to help and advise you throughout the entire process.

100% No Win, No Fee

We work on a 100% no win, no fee basis. If your claim is ultimately unsuccessful you will not have to pay any legal fees at all.

To book your initial claim assessment call 0800 612 7456 or complete our callback form here. All calls are handled in the strictest confidence.

Read more about how no win, no fee works.

Meet our team

Our nationwide network of solicitors handle all types of road accident claims, including fast track, complex and serious injury claims. Chosen for their winning track record, our lawyers have years of experience.

Click here to meet more of the QLS team.

Kevin Walker Serious Injury Panel Solicitor
Rakhi Chauhan Road Accident Panel Solicitor
Shahida Chaudery Complex Injury Claims Panel Solicitor

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.

Excessive workload

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.