Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Councelling and stress

Is it enough for an employer to offer confidential counselling to prevent a claim of stress? In a recent case, the court of appeal has made it clear that having counselling available is not sufficient if the employer has failed in other ways.

The court found that the complainant in the case was over-worked and in a situation in which at least three managers were giving her instructions, sometimes contradictory. As a result she was driven into depression.

Awarding her £134,000 for personal injury, the court unanimously ruled that the employer should have addressed the over-work and management issues. Counselling would not have helped. Many schools and colleges have put counselling in place since stress cases have begun to get into the courts. This is a positive step, but it does not absolve the employer from addressing objective management issues as well as psychological difficulties.

If an employer knows, or reasonably should have foreseen, that an employee is suffering from stress, then the employee has a chance of recovering some level of damages from the employer. How much will depend on the facts of the case.

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