More than a Health Issue: Stress Can Have Legal Consequences

Posted on Aug 4 2015 - 11:10am by Admin

penaltyWork-related stress poses all kinds of health risks. According to the University of Cambridge, people may experience headaches, sleep disturbances, and increased cardiovascular disease due to stress, and it may also cause depression, anxiety and irritability. All of this contributes to poor motivation, memory and concentration in the workplace.

While primarily a health issue, stress in the workplace can also have legal consequences, as it can increase the risk of injury or result in intimidation or harassment. Employees have the right to work in a fair and safe environment; when employers fail to provide that kind of workplace, employees can claim compensation.

Increased Accident Risks

A growing body of research asserts that stress can contribute to increased injury risks. When the work environment puts unreasonable pressure to employees to cover workload, it often leads to physical and mental fatigue. This causes impaired judgment, delayed reactions to emergencies; slower reflexes in running machinery, and ultimately, increased likelihood for accidents at work.

To prove fault in accident claims, employees need to prove that the employer owed them a duty of care, or the legal obligation requiring them to take all necessary steps to ensure health, safety and well-being of their employees. You have to establish that your employer breached that duty of care, ultimately leading to the injury.

Intimidation in the Workplace

While the abovementioned tackles the probable result of stress, this part discusses a common source of stress: intimidation. Your employer may be accountable for the physical or psychological injuries resulting from harassment. You can claim compensation for this, but understand that these issues have clearly defined grounds that should be met to ensure a successful compensation claim.

Harassment refers to a set of behaviours aimed to degrade or injure a person, based on ‘protected characteristics’, which includes race, ethnic or national origin, sex or sexual orientation, marital status, age, or disability.

To prove that you are a victim of this and make a claim, you must show that incidents of harassment occurred at least twice and that the perpetrators know that their actions would contribute to intimidation. The incident should have also happened within the period of employment.

Stress at work is more than a health issue; it can have legal consequences, as it is associated with accident risks and harassment. Consult legal practitioners when you encounter these issues to ensure protection of rights.