An Interview With Jessica Thompson – Head Of Stress At Work
After recently being promoted to head up the Stress At Work department; Jessica Thompson is helping to establish a specialist team of solicitors in dealing with some of the most complex and difficult employment law cases.
Stress At Work is unique to Oakwood Solicitors and it’s thanks to Jessica and her team that we are able to help those who become so stressed at work, they have to seek medical help.
Here, we speak to Jessica about her career so far and what her hopes and ambitions are for the Stress At Work department.
Where are you from?
Yorkshire, born in Harrogate.
Where did you study?
I went to Durham University to study Business, then did my GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law) at BBP Law School in Leeds before doing my LPC (Legal Practice Course) also at BBP Law School in Leeds.
What did you do after you graduated?
I came to work for Oakwood Solicitors in 2010, straight after finishing my LPC and started out as a Paralegal in the RTA Department. This was a great opportunity for me to learn the foundations of civil litigation.
I was shortly after offered a Training Contract to start in March 2012 and during this time, I continued to work in the RTA Department alongside also working in the Employment Department and Stress at Work Department. At that time, there was only really myself and my predecessor Richard Coulthard doing the Stress at Work claims and I really enjoyed the challenge of getting to grips with the complexity of law in this area in addition to feeling as though I was genuinely of help to those in very difficult work situations.
Towards the end of my Training Contract, I was gradually more and more involved in establishing the Stress at Work Department to the specialist team we are today. On qualification, it was my first choice to remain in the department and happily this was agreed. Since that time, my role developed to Assistant Head of Department in February 2014 and me becoming increasingly involved in the day-to-day management of the team.
Why did you specialise in this area of law?
I genuinely enjoy the law in this area and I think that helps as it is not always easy or comfortable subject matter which we are having to deal with. Our clients have often had to endure horrendous workplace situations; some have been sexually assaulted or harassed, others subjected to a campaign of bullying, others had their complaints of struggling at work simply ignored.
For anybody, issues at work causes difficultly both inside and outside of work so helping those people either find a way through either a current stressful situation or helping them bring resolution to a historic situation is very rewarding and hopefully worthwhile to our clients.
By nature of the work we do, we often build close relationships with our clients as we are dealing with sometimes the most traumatic and difficult life experiences they have had to go through. Whilst it can of course be difficult to be so involved, it is rewarding when you get to a positive end result for someone after what is often a long battle against an employer.
Having a speciality in a niche area of law is also both challenging and rewarding to know that you are providing a service that only a handful of others are giving.
What’s your favourite thing about your new role as Head Of Stress?
I am looking forward to being at the forefront of maintaining the reputation and specialist experience that the Stress At Work team has. I’m also excited to build upon that in the future.
What are your ambitions for the department?
We are specialists in this field but there are always new things to learn; from changes and developments in the case law, to how we can provide a more tailored service to our client’s needs, we can strive to improve for the benefit of our clients.
People suffering with their mental health need a voice and additional support in the workplace. I hope that our work is helping change employers’ attitudes and understanding of such conditions which will overall raise awareness meaning that people will be more supported in the workplace when it comes to mental health. From experience, there is still a way to go in ensuring that mental health of employees is treated with the same level of importance as physical health and this is something I want to help drive forward in the work that our team does.
What are your charitable ambitions for helping people who suffer with stress at work?
Raising awareness of mental health generally is something with I think is important, both from a personal and professional view. In particular, there is at present no emergency service available for those suffering with severe psychiatric symptoms and this gap in the health service needs to be focused on with importance.
As a team, we are all passionate about raising awareness so will be looking to be involved and help with charities where we are able over the coming months and years to come.
To find out more about the Stress At Work department, click here.