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What Constitutes Work Related Stress?

Stress in its simplest form can actually be a good thing. Many of us actually need stress to perform at our best. However, it can be dangerous and it is when stress becomes too much and manifests into something more serious such as a recognised psychiatric condition that it can give rise to a potential personal injury claim. 

stress at work lawyer

One of the first questions we would ask a member is whether or not they have been diagnosed with a recognised psychiatric disorder. A claim for damages cannot be made if someone is suffering from “stress” alone. Common psychiatric disorders include depression, PTSD or generalised anxiety disorder. A member may have been to see their GP because of work related stress but are unaware they have been diagnosed with a psychiatric condition. We can assist by requesting copies of their GP records but a good indicator is that the member has been to see their GP because of occupational stress.

The second issue is a threshold question:  was the psychiatric injury reasonably foreseeable? The key consideration for the Courts is deciding whether or not the member’s force knew, or ought to have reasonably known about how work was affecting their health. This unfortunately is the bar to so many claims. Good examples of where the force may have had foresight include:

  • A previous work related stress absence
  • Previously disclosed mental health difficulties
  • The members complaining to their manger that they were becoming ill (as opposed to just stressed)

If you are struggling at work to the extent it is affecting your health it is extremely important that you let your work based representative or federation know.

Thirdly, it is necessary to show there has been a breach of duty and that it was in fact something which the force did (or failed to do) contrary to law, which has caused the illness. We often ask members what their force could have done to prevent the harm they have suffered. Examples may include:

  • A failure to refer the member to occupational health
  • In an overwork case, a failure to re-allocate work appropriately
  • In a bullying case, failing to investigate the member’s complaints and perform a risk assessment


The final test is whether the breach of duty complained of caused the injury as opposed to other life stressors that we all commonly have. 

If you feel that the above applies to you then we encourage you to speak with your work based representative or federation about your concerns. 

If you or a family member wishes to bring a claim please contact the PF Claimline on Freephone 0800 917 1999 or visit where you will get advice free of charge.  We hope you don’t need us, but if you do, we are here to support you.


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