Stress is a normal part of life and most jobs will involve an element of stress. However, if stress is excessive or prolonged, it can lead to the development of physical or mental illness. Every year millions of working days are lost as a result of stress.
The types of working conditions that can cause work related stress include:
- Bullying and harassment – this is defined as behaviour which makes someone feel intimidated or offended such as spreading malicious rumours, unfair treatment, picking on or undermining someone or denying someone opportunities for training or promotion.
- Lack of support – your employer fails to provide adequate support, assistance or guidance.
- Workload – your employer is placing unrealistic and unreasonable demands on you such as giving you too much work or forcing you to work long hours.
- Denial of employment rights – your employer denies you your legal rights such as the right to breaks, rest periods and annual leave.
Claims for occupational stress are very complex and can be difficult to prove. Stress in itself is not a medical condition; it is an adverse response to physical and emotional stimuli. The most common symptoms of stress may also be the same as those associated with various other medical conditions.
Typical emotional signs of stress include:
- Feeling Irritable, aggressive or wound up
- Felling overburdened
- Feeling anxious, nervous or afraid
- Felling like your thoughts are racing and you can’t switch off
- Feeling Depressed
- Feeling bad about yourself, lonely or worthless
The following physical symptoms may also be associated with stress:
- Shallow breathing or hyperventilating
- Panic attacks
- Upset stomach, constipation or diarrhoea
- Muscle tension, aches and pains
- Loss of sexual desire
- Low energy and tiredness
- Chest Pains
- High blood pressure
- Indigestion or heartburn
- Felling sick, dizzy or fainting
Generally, symptoms of anxiety and stress will give not rise to a claim for compensation. You will only have a potential claim for compensation if you are suffering from a recognised psychiatric condition caused as a result of your employer’s failure to take reasonable care for your wellbeing. You will also need to prove that the injury you are suffering from was foreseeable. In other words, it should have been apparent to your employer, in the particular circumstances, that injury was likely to occur. If your employer has been made aware of problems but has not taken any steps to reduce the risk to your health you may have a potential claim.
If you are suffering from stress related symptoms you should see your doctor straight away. You should also report your symptoms to your employer.
If you believe your stress related illness has been caused by work place pressures, or bullying and harassment in the work place, you may be entitled to compensation, even if you have not been diagnosed with a specific condition.