How do I make a work injury claim for psychiatric harm?

Worker struggling at home with psychological injury

When we think about workplace health and safety, the risk of physical harm comes to mind first. However, under UK law, employers must also take steps to protect the mental and emotional wellbeing of their workforce.

Many jobs have stressful, high-pressure aspects, and some jobs are unavoidably challenging. Although some risks cannot be entirely removed, all companies owe their staff a duty of care to protect workers’ health. This can include a duty to:

  • Minimise mental health risks where possible
  • Provide mental health training and support
  • Monitor employees’ wellbeing
  • Modify the tasks and job roles of at-risk, vulnerable workers
  • Take action to protect ill workers from further harm

If your employer has breached their duty of care, and your mental health has been harmed as a result, you may be entitled to claim compensation.

This article considers eligibility to claim for work-related psychiatric harm or stress, what employers must do to protect workers, and what support is available for employees who have been let down by their company.

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Work injury compensation

Work-related illness claims

What psychological harm can I claim for?

You can claim for any recognised psychological harm, including PTSD, stress, anxiety and depression, caused by your work or working conditions.

You can claim for PTSD following an accident or other traumatic incident at work, or for mental health issues that have developed over a period of time, provided that the harm resulted from your employer’s actions or negligence.

To claim compensation for psychological harm, you will need to instruct a specialist solicitor to handle your claim.

How do I prove I suffered a psychological injury at work?

Your solicitor will arrange for a medical assessment to be carried out, to report on the nature and severity of your psychological injury, and the impact on your life and ability to work. This report is then used to calculate how much compensation you should receive.

The medical report will also help your solicitor to prove that the injury is work-related. Your lawyer will also gather other evidence to help determine that your employer breached the duty of care they owed you.

Can I claim for work-related stress?

Yes. Employers owe their staff a duty of care to protect them from avoidable stress. If your employer has breached this duty, and you have been harmed as a result

The law recognises that some high-pressure jobs are inherently stressful. Nonetheless, your employer must take reasonable steps to reduce stress at work, and monitor and manage risks that cannot be removed entirely.

In the landmark workplace stress case, Walker v Northumberland County Council (1995), Mr Walker suffered two nervous breakdowns due to an excessive workload. The court determined that the council breached its duty of care owed to Mr Walker by failing to take reasonable steps to protect his mental health.

As with other claims relating psychological harm, work-related stress claims can be more difficult to prove than straightforward work accident claims. Even if you have not yet received a formal diagnosis, you should still consider speaking to a solicitor about your options.

Can I claim if my existing psychiatric condition was made worse?

Yes, you may be able to claim if your work made an existing condition worse.

The Hatton principles are a set of tests that the courts apply to determine whether an employer should have known about a worker’s existing ill health. Employers can assume that a worker can withstand the pressures of normal work, but if the employer was made aware of their worker’s health condition, and failed to take steps to protect them from harm, the employer may be liable if the condition worsens.

What legislation protects workers from psychiatric harm and workplace stress?

Key legislation includes:

Can I claim for workplace bullying or harassment?

Yes. Your employer also owes you a duty of care to protect you from the risk of discrimination, bullying and harassment at work. If your employer failed to take action to protect you from these harms, or your employer actually caused the harm, you have a right to claim compensation.

However, a claim for bullying or harassment would not normally be considered a personal injury matter. If you have been bullied or harassed at work, your case would usually be handled by a specialist employment law solicitor. If necessary, your case would go to an Employment Tribunal.

Under the Equality Act 2010, you have a right to claim compensation if you are discriminated against on the basis of a range of ‘protected characteristics, including gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, race and religion. The Act also protects workers from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, maternity and marital status.

An employment law specialist solicitor will be able to explain your options to claim compensation for bullying, harassment and discrimination.

Read more:

Reforms proposed for psychological harm

What support is available for workers suffering from stress and psychiatric harm?

The charity Mind offers help and support to employees suffering from work-related mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. The Stress Management Society also offers a range of solutions for both staff and business owners to help manage stress in the workplace.

If you need to speak to someone urgently, Samaritans operate a free 24-hour helpline on 116 123.

You should consider speaking to your GP regarding your health concerns. They will advise you further and put you in contact with local NHS mental health resources.

Ideally, you should also speak to your manager or HR representative about your ill health or health concerns. Your employer will be better able to support you if they are aware of the problem, and can take steps to safeguard you from future harm.

If you have already reported your concerns, and no action has been taken, or your manager is the cause of the problem, you may prefer to contact Citizens Advice, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) or a solicitor.

How do I start a claim for a psychiatric injury at work?

The first step is to contact a solicitor for a FREE initial claim assessment.

You can find out if you have a claim in minutes by speaking to a legally trained advisor on 0800 376 1001. Your solicitor will put no pressure on you to proceed with a claim.

If you have any questions, or would like to start a No Win No Fee work accident claim, we are open:

Mon-Fri 8am-9pm, Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 9:30am-5pm

Alternatively, you can arrange a call back from a friendly, legally-trained advisor:

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Chris Salmon, Director

Author:
Chris Salmon, Director