A Guide to Claiming Work-Related Depression Compensation

If you have been affected by workplace anxiety or depression we can help.

The purpose of this guide is to help anyone who has suffered workplace anxiety or depression and is considering a legal claim for compensation. If you are looking for medical advice, please see the NHS website.

Introduction

According to the latest 2019 data published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 595,000 workers were suffering from work-related stress, anxiety or depression in 2018.

According to the ONS, 1 in 6 workers are dealing with a mental health issue. The ONS's Labour Force Survey data suggests that excessive workloads, tight deadlines and a lack of support from management all contributed to worker's ill health.

If you have developed stress, depression or anxiety as the result of your job, you may be entitled to claim compensation.

See also: Making a work injury claim.

Depression at work

People often don't realise they are suffering from depression. Protracted periods of feeling at a "low ebb" are often mistaken for just that.

If you have been feeling sad or low for two weeks or more, you may be suffering from depression.

What are the psychological symptoms?

Psychological symptoms can include:

  • Problems with concentration
  • Fuzzy thinking
  • Difficulties with decision making
  • Constant pessimistic outlook
  • Loss of interest in socialising and previous interests
  • Anxiety
  • Overwhelming sense of guilt
  • Suicidal thoughts

What are the physical symptoms?

You may also have physical symptoms which can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of energy
  • Insomnia
  • loss of appetite or sex drive
  • Physical cramps and aches and pains

What are the symptoms of more serious clinical or major depression?

'Clinical Depression' (also referred to as 'Major Depression') is when the person suffers from any of the symptoms listed above as well as much more pronounced and debilitating symptoms. These can include:

  • Weight loss or gain
  • Restlessness
  • Serious insomnia or hypersomnia

If you have suffered from a depressed mood or profound loss of interest for two or more weeks, you may be suffering from clinical depression. Clinical or Major depression can worsen if left untreated so seeking medical attention as soon as possible is essential.

Anxiety at work

Although there is not usually an underlying physical illness with anxiety, the symptoms are real, tangible and potentially serious.

Anxiety is a result of a response to adrenalin, the hormone released by the body when a threat or danger is perceived. The production of adrenalin occurs to ready the body to either fight or run as fast as possible. Historically this would have been a useful process; however, for most people in most jobs, it is counter-productive.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

If you have experienced any of the following symptoms, particularly when at work or when thinking about work, you may be suffering from anxiety:

  • Panic attacks or heart palpitations
  • Hyperventilation or breathing difficulties
  • Irrational fears
  • Chest or stomach pains
  • Tense or aching muscles
  • Insomnia

If you think you may be suffering from prolonged anxiety, you should see your GP.

What should I do if suffering from stress, depression or anxiety at work

If you suspect that you are suffering from anxiety or depression, you should:

  • Bring it to your employer's attention - speak to your line manager, HR Officer or trade union representative. You should outline what you feel the underlying reasons may be and suggest ways in which your working environment might be altered to address the problem.
  • Summarise in writing - Send a written summary of your discussion to your employer. This is critical as if you decide to pursue a legal claim at a later date, your employer may argue that they were unaware of your situation.
  • Engage with your employer's attempts to resolve the situation - Your employer should take proper steps to address the causes of your depression. This might include a change to working hours or job description, or more training.
  • Raise a grievance - if your employer takes no effective steps to address the situation, you can raise a formal grievance.
  • Seek medical assistance - You may have already visited your GP and are probably best doing this at the earliest signs of symptoms. In any event, if you feel you cannot cope or if the symptoms are too great you should visit your GP. Your GP can sign you off work until you are better. During this period you will be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay, at least, for up to 28 weeks.
  • Consider making a compensation claim - If your employer has failed, or not done enough to address your situation, the employer may be considered liable for your stress-related illness. If your employer is liable then it may be possible to make a no win no fee compensation claim.

What must my employer do?

By law, a company owes employees a 'duty of care' to protect against the risk of injury and illness. In addition, the Equality Act 2010 outlines an employer's duty to make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities. The Act extends to mental health risks which include stress, depression and anxiety.

Once you have brought your situation to your employer's attention, they must make best endeavours to reduce or remove the source of stress.

What measures can my employer take?

Measures may be large changes or small adjustments. The employer should work with you on a plan to meet your specific needs, which may include:

  • Changes to working hours, reduced number of days and/or flexi-time
  • Change of workplace environment
  • Homeworking
  • Separation from specific colleagues where friction or personality clashes exist
  • Period of leave
  • More training and support
  • Improved tools
  • Reduction of workload
  • Mediation

Returning to work

Action must be taken to remove the causes or triggers of your condition, and to improve their working environment.

Respecting your wishes, it may also be appropriate to provide additional training to management or ADDs. This training could be given in a general, standardised way so as not to single out an affected worker and to protect their privacy.

Supporting an ongoing mental health issue

Employers must also ensure the wellbeing and support of staff who are coping with an ongoing issue, including depression and anxiety. This is the case even if the cause of the mental health issue is not directly related to a worker's employment.

Employers must take all reasonable steps to accommodate an affected worker and to ensure that their condition does not deteriorate.

What steps should your employer take to support an ongoing mental health issue?

Your employer could consider:

  • Changing working hours or shift patterns or reducing workload
  • Setting more manageable or flexible targets
  • Providing more training or management support
  • Regular catch-ups with an HR representative, to give an employee a chance to voice any issues and to notify the company if extra support is needed

What can managers and ADDs do?

If you are concerned that a colleague may be affected by depression or stress, you should respect your colleague's wishes and handle the matter sensitively. Your colleague may not even realise that they are showing signs of depression or anxiety.

Should I say something about a colleague's anxiety or depression?

Whether your co-worker is aware of their health issues, it may be better to talk to them informally - rather than immediately reporting your concerns to HR or management.

You could consider the following:

  • Talk informally - It can be difficult for people to discuss mental health at the best of times, let alone when work-related pressures are involved. The affected worker may even be afraid of losing their job if they are “found out”. By focusing on the person rather than the problem, and in an informal setting like a cafe at lunch or after work, you have an opportunity to help them discuss their concerns and to offer support.
  • Don't make assumptions - It is not your job to diagnose a colleague or to fix their problems. Many people affected by mental health conditions are very able to do their job to a high standard.
  • Be understanding, patient and flexible - Remember that everyone experiences these issues differently. You may even have experienced something similar yourself, but that does not necessarily mean that what worked for you will help them. The support you give, and that which is given by your company's HR, will need to be adapted to best match the needs of the affected person.
  • Above all, respect their privacy - Mental health information is highly confidential and sensitive. Discussing what you know with others, even with the best intentions, has the potential to cause an employee further harm.

If a colleague appears to be in acute distress or you are otherwise very concerned for their welfare, it may be appropriate to report your concerns.

Every case is different, and every workplace will have its HR procedures. Whether you are a manager or a co-worker, you could approach HR on a general basis and ask for general advice on how to approach a potential issue, rather than naming names.

Can I claim for work-related anxiety or depression?

If you have been diagnosed with depression or with anxiety and believe that your job may be the cause, you may have grounds to claim compensation.

A specialist no win, no fee solicitor will be able to help you explore your options, and will answer any questions you have. There is no obligation to proceed with a claim if you do not wish to.

Your solicitor will need to establish that the mental health issues you are experiencing were caused by a breach of duty on the part of your employer.

Examples of where an employer may have been negligent or otherwise caused harm:

  • Failing to act on reports of bullying or harassment in the workplace
  • Mishandling of a complaint or grievance
  • Insisting that you return to work after a bout of illness (mental health-related or otherwise) before you have recovered
  • Repeatedly assigning excessive workloads or unreasonable targets

Examples of employer negligence:

  • Having inadequate processes in place and fail to recognise clear signs of depression or anxiety
  • Failing to make reasonable changes when made aware of an employee's mental health condition
  • Failing to support an affected worker's recovery adequately

How can I prove my job is to blame for my mental state?

It can be challenging to draw a link between a mental health diagnosis and your job. Evidence in support of a claim for work-related mental health issues could include:

  • Emails and text messages you have sent or received
  • Formal notices and letters from your employer
  • A journal or diary recording your workday and how it has made you feel
  • Medical records (Your solicitor will assist you with requesting these. Quittance will arrange a medical with a doctor local to where you live)
  • Supporting statements from witnesses, such as co-workers, confirming the pressure or other work issues you experienced

How long do I have to make a claim?

For physical injuries, employees have three years following an accident at work to claim compensation. For cases of depression, anxiety and stress, however, workers may have more time to claim, generally up to six years.

The courts allow for more time in these cases as it is difficult for people to come forward about their mental health. You may even be unaware that your health is being affected.

How does the claims process work?

There are two main routes to taking legal action in respect of a case of work-related anxiety or depression; an employment tribunal and a personal injury claim.

Employment tribunal

If your depression or anxiety has arisen as the result of harassment, discrimination or other harm that relates to specific legislation, an employment tribunal may be the better option.

For example, the Equality Act 2010 requires that employers do not discriminate against workers on the grounds of depression. An employer cannot fire you or make you redundant because you have been diagnosed with depression. Employers also must not discriminate against applicants with a mental health condition.

By law, you are not required to disclose your depression to an employer or at a job interview.

A tribunal may also be the preferred option if your employer has disregarded your rights, but the resulting anxiety or depression has not been clinically diagnosed.

Personal injury claim

If you have been medically diagnosed with depression or another recognised condition, it may be possible to claim personal injury compensation.

In addition to “special damages” in respect of lost wages and the other financial losses that have suffered, the courts will also award “general damages”.

General damages are calculated based on the nature and severity of the mental health injury and the likely prognosis.

For example, a psychiatric injury that is likely to recover within a few months could be worth up to £4,450.

Severe harm, with poor prospects for recovery that has had a lasting impact on a person's life and ability to work, could be worth up to £88,000.

A solicitor will confirm which is the better option for you, based on the facts of your case. They will also be able to answer any questions you have about the process.

Read more about making a work injury claim.

Take the first steps towards support, compensation and recovery

Most law firms will not take on cases of work-related stress, anxiety or depression. These cases can require specialist expertise in order for them to be successful.

Our specialist team of solicitors assist people who have developed a mental health condition as a result of their job.  Our role is to provide caring and sensitive support while helping you obtain compensation to help you move forward with your life.

How does no win, no fee work?

Under a no win, no fee agreement (known as a 'Conditional Fee Agreement' or 'CFA') you can make a depression or anxiety at work claim without the worry of upfront legal fees. If your depression or anxiety at work claim is unsuccessful you won't have to pay any money to your solicitor.

Our no win, no fee promise

Our no win, no fee guarantee means there is absolutely no financial risk in making a depression or anxiety at work claim, even if you don't win your claim.

What do I pay if I win my depression or anxiety at work claim?

Your injury solicitor will receive a success fee which is deducted from your compensation, only 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 depression or anxiety at work claim?

If your depression or anxiety at work claim is not successful then you will not have to pay any fees.

Read more about making a No win, no fee claim

Is there a penalty if I withdraw?

Under a No Win, No Fee Agreement (CFA), fees may apply if a claimant refuses to cooperate, or abandons their claim after the legal work has started, or if the claim is fraudulent.

How can Quittance help?

Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you, the highly-experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning injury claims.

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:

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Depression or anxiety 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.

Read more about claiming on behalf of another person.

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.

Read more about claiming compensation if you were partly responsible for an accident.

How long do I have to make a depression or anxiety at work claim?

In general, you have a time limit of up to 3 years from the date of the depression or anxiety at work to make an injury claim.

The last date you can make a claim is known as the claim limitation date - after which your depression or anxiety at work claim becomes 'statute barred'.

Can I claim for a depression or anxiety at work after 3 years?

Possibly. The general rule for adults is that a claim must be started within three years.

However, the three-year countdown starts on the day you learned of your injury or illness. This will usually be the date of the accident, but could be the date your doctor gave you a diagnosis.

There other circumstances that can also impact the limitation date. Call us now on 0800 612 7456 to find out if you are still able to claim depression or anxiety at work compensation.

In reality, there are a number of factors that can affect whether a depression or anxiety at work claim will be taken on by a solicitor.

Calculate your claim limitation date

Will I have to go to court?

Highly unlikely. The vast majority of claims that are settled by the 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.

Read more: Will my injury claim go to court and what if it does?

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.

Read more: Will I have to visit a solicitor's office?

Can I get an early compensation payment?

If you suffer financial hardship as a result of an injury, you may be able to claim an interim compensation payment.

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.

Read more about interim compensation payments.

Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

About the author

Howard qualified as a solicitor in 1984 and has specialised in personal injury for over 25 years. He is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and is a recognised Law Society Personal Injury Panel expert.

Read more about this Quittance Legal Expert