Legal and Finance: Civil and Criminal Law Differ on Stress at Work
Byline: John Duckers
This week's controversial appeal court ruling on stress at work has opened a huge gap between companies' obligations under civil and criminal law, according to a Birmingham lawyer.
Companies that follow the court's new guidelines - providing a strong defence against being sued by workers claiming workplace stress has made them ill - could still face the prospect of being prosecuted in the criminal courts.
The new pitfalls will be explored at a seminar on stress at work to be held on February 20 at Martineau Johnson's Birmingham offices, which will aim to throw some light onto the subject.
Stress hit the headlines this week when Martineau Johnson's litigation department were involved in an appeal by Sandwell Council against a record pounds 157,000 stressat-work award to former employee Olwen Jones.
The award was made at Birmingham County Court last year after she claimed that her workload with the Council's training agency for under-achieving school leavers, was too great.
Repeated requests to her superiors to reduce the volume of work she was expected to complete, were ignored, and she often felt obliged to work into the small hours.
The council appealed against the award, but in a ruling published this week, the local authority lost and Mrs Jones was told she could keep the money. Three other appeals, all relating to stress cases but concerning different employers, were successful, because the court decided the claimants had not let their employers know they were finding it hard to cope.
Martineau Johnson litigation partner Stuart Farr said: 'These decisions by the Court of Appeal will have enormous impact on the way all employers treat their workers in future. …