APPOINTMENTS: What Employers Can Do to Avoid Stress of a Courtroom Confrontation

The Birmingham Post (England), April 23, 2005 | Go to article overview

APPOINTMENTS: What Employers Can Do to Avoid Stress of a Courtroom Confrontation


Byline: FERGAL DOWLING

Almost one in three employees say that they feel under pressure at work.

The result? Thousands of employees, backed by trade unions, who are taking their bosses to court. And it's costing British businesses hundreds of millions of pounds.

The all-important questions are, of course, what can employers do to avoid a courtroom confrontation? And how can they remove stress from the top of the workplace agenda?

The starting point lies with the need to recognise what is causing the stress.

Causes are generally recognised as lack of training or support, poorly managed change or inadequate working environment. Other triggers can include poor working relationships, ill-defined roles, highly demanding tasks or dull and repetitive ones.

Note that for employers, ignorance of stress levels and their causes is no defence in court.

Liability cannot be avoided on the basis that they were not aware of the staff member's predicament. However, employers can assume that employees will be able to withstand the 'normal pressures' of a job, unless they are informed of any specific problems or disadvantages.

The onus is on tribunals to consider whether it is 'reasonably foreseeable' that stress has adversely affected a particular employee, and whether the demands on a stressed employee were any different to those made on others in similar jobs. The court may take a sympathetic view on an employee who has told his or her bosses about medical advice or potential problems - but that may depend on the rest of the evidence. …

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