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in bullying and harassment claims.
Many people experience unpleasant treatment at work at the hands of their managers and fellow colleagues at some time during their working career. Sometimes this activity deeply affects individuals and it can become a huge problem for their health.
If you have suffered a recognised psychiatric injury as a result of bullying and harassment at work, you could have potential claims in both the Civil Courts and the Employment Tribunal against your employer.
What do I do if I’m being bullied or harassed at work?
The most important thing above any claim you may have is in maintaining your own health. This must be the priority.
If you are concerned about how you are coping with bullying and harassment at work, we would encourage you to speak to your GP and seek specialist advice. They have a wealth of experience and knowledge surrounding the issues of mental ill-health.
At your workplace and before any issues escalate, do try to speak to someone who may be able to help you and who you feel able to confide in. If you have been battling these issues quietly, explain the problems you are facing at work in a calm and professional manner to your employers. Nobody can read minds.
If you later consider making a claim, having a record of work issues raised can be useful. If you feel as though you have tried to bring them to your employer’s attention and are still experiencing bullying and harassment, we would be happy to discuss the matter further with you.
Please get in touch for a free and confidential assessment if you feel as though you would benefit from some legal support.
Do I have a claim?
When exposed to bullying and harassment over a period of time, there is a risk that this may damage someone’s mental health to the extent that medical help and support is required.
Employers have a duty of care to employees. This duty includes a legal obligation to take practical measures to support both the physical and mental health and wellbeing of staff. With bullying and harassment, employers have to look into the conduct complained about once they are made aware.
In a stress a work claim, compensation is pursued in the county courts against an employer who has failed in their legal duties to keep their employee mentally safe at work, despite being aware that there were bullying and harassment issues reported to them to which they failed to do enough to look into and intervene.
What are the criteria for a stress at work claim for bullying and harassment?
You must legally prove that you have not only suffered workplace stress, but that the stress meets the clinical criteria for a recognised psychiatric condition. If so, you would be able to claim compensation known as general damages – compensation for the pain and suffering you have endured as a result of the negligence.
If the symptoms meet the criteria, the court uses guidance called the Judicial Studies Board Guidelines (JCG) as a starting point, which takes into account the following:
How do I make a claim?
Before deciding if a claim is the best option for you, it’s important to seek initial legal advice. Oakwood Solicitors Ltd offers a free initial assessment and would be happy to examine any documents you have and discuss whether we think that action could be taken.
If you find a solicitor who believes that your claim has merits, it is important to consider the impact on your health that moving a claim forward may have. Litigation can be stressful and may have an adverse effect on your health.
We are not doctors, so we cannot give you medical advice – but we do have a duty to advise you that pursuing a claim will be a reminder of the stress that led to your psychiatric condition whilst it is ongoing.
The only outcome of a successful claim is financial compensation. You may see litigation as a way of getting answers, but most cases settle out of court, meaning that many questions may remain unanswered.
Doctors’ advice may be that you will only be able to make a good recovery from your illness once you can move on from your issues. Litigation may therefore delay your recovery. Any decision to proceed must be your own, in conjunction with medical advice.
If you agree to proceed with a claim, our team will be happy to explain the process in further detail with you.
How long do I have to make a claim?
Claims for psychiatric injury are subject to strict time limits and you must have commenced proceedings within 3 years of your date of knowledge that you have suffered an injury as a result of the work-related stress. Usually, we advise that the time limit runs from the first time you seek medical advice from your GP, but limitation is assessed on a case-by-case basis.
There may also be separate allegations that can be made under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, and such allegations would be subject to a 6 year limitation period.
If you are unsure about your own time limit, we would be happy to help advise you if we’re able to support you with a claim.
How much is my claim worth?
The section of the Judicial Studies Board Guidelines (JCG) covering psychiatric injury claims has four compensation brackets:
Most cases of this nature fall within the moderate or moderately severe categories. The court considers similar trialed cases to determine where a case may fall regarding the compensation bracket.
Claims for both past and anticipated future losses can be made. This list is not exhaustive and is very case-specific.
Why use Oakwood Solicitors to support my bullying and harassment claim?
Claims for Psychiatric Injury arising from work-related stress is a very complex area of law. At Oakwood Solicitors, we have a dedicated and specialised team here to help.
With the majority of the team having a qualification in mental health (a TQUK Level 2 Certificate in Awareness of Mental Health Problems), we fully appreciate the difficulties those suffering with a mental health condition at work may face, particularly in the case of workplace stress.
Whether it’s an ongoing issue or a historic issue, we are here to help and will carry out a free assessment with no obligation to take forward a claim.
What is bullying?
ACAS defines bullying as:
“Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.”
There is no claim for bullying in itself as a legal action – there has to be some sort of failure by the employer to protect an employee for the behaviour complained of. There also has to be some sort of financial loss that can be compensated and/or an impact on someone’s health (often to their mental health) which is significant to meet the necessary criteria for a compensation claim.
What is harassment?
Bullying in and of itself is not against the law, but harassment is. Unwanted behaviour becomes harassment if it includes:
If the conduct meets the legal requirement for a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act, the employer can be responsible on the basis that the behaviour took place at work.
To meet the threshold for harassment, you have to show that the conduct has:
I have just been diagnosed with Stress at Work but I stopped working at the company a while ago. Can I still make a claim?
Yes, you can.
It is not a requirement for someone making a claim to still work for the intended Defendant company. Likewise, it is not a requirement for the employee to have to leave in order to make a claim.
Will I lose my job if I make a claim against my employer?
It is unlawful for an employer to dismiss an employee just because they are either considering legal action or taking any legal actions against them.
How long will my case take to run?
In theory, the case could settle any day from day one, but on average, cases are usually resolved within twenty-four months from when we are first instructed.
Would I have to go to court?
If the case did not settle, then ultimately the matter would proceed to court, where a Judge would make a determination. However, most cases do settle out of Court, so although this is an unlikely eventuality, we cannot rule it out as an impossibility.
If you do have any concerns about this during the process of your claim, we would be happy to discuss this with you and address any concerns you may have.
How is my case funded?
There can be a number of ways to fund your legal fees. Subject to individual assessment, the most common method to fund a claim of this nature is by way of a Conditional Fee Agreement or CFA, which is often referred to as a ‘No-Win, No-Fee’ Agreement.
This means that if the claim is unsuccessful, you will not have to pay us anything towards our costs, subject to compliance with the terms and conditions of the agreement in place.
If you believe that workplace stress is the root of your current ill-health and your workplace isn’t listening, get in touch today for a free initial consultation. Choose one of the methods on the right-hand side of this page, or call us on 0113 200 9787 to find out how we can help you.
Jessica Rowson started as a Paralegal at Oakwood Solicitors in July 2010, qualifying as a Solicitor in September 2013. Following her qualifying as a Solicitor, Jessica established a niche department dealing primarily with Stress at Work claims.
She was promoted to Assistant Head of Department in 2014 and took over as Head of Department in 2016, where she broadened the scope of the department to cover a wider range of claims focused on Psychiatric Injury.
In December 2017, Jessica was promoted to Director following over seven years of service and dedication to the firm.