With influence of globalization and ever changing world of work, occupational stress at workplaces are surfacing more and more as the demand driven economies are pushing the employees and employers against the wall (International Labour Organization, 2016). Technological advancement, shifting job profiles, increasing job demands, shorter (or longer) working schedules, increasing competition and involving nature of the 4th industrial revolution are all creating opportunities and at the same time placing pressure on employees and employers alike. According to a report published by Health and Safety Executive in 2007, in Great Britain alone “work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounts for 40% of work-related ill health and 49% of working days lost, in 2016/17” (Health and Safety Executive, 2017). Which clearly places work related stress as an important point to be dealt with.
First, in order to understand occupational stress, we need to understand what occupational stress is. While there are many interpretations, the World Health Organization defines work-related stress ‘is the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope’ (World Health Organization, 2018), whereas the Health and Safety Executive of the United Kingdom defines work-related stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’ (Health and Safety Executive, 2018). Based on these definitions, this paper will explore if work related stress and demands are linked? Could stress be linked to external factors? Could a stressful situation to someone may not necessarily be stressful to another? Answering the above, the paper will critically evaluate how Employment laws in the United Kingdom has been used in cases related to occupational stress.
In the United Kingdom, laws and regulations related to employment are covered through Statutes, Common Laws, European Laws . Employment laws and regulations (statutes) covers everything from (and not limited to) the recruitment process, wages and benefits, employee rights, employment status, harassment, discrimination, duties of the employer, breach of contracts, dismissals, lay-offs etc. In 2010, the government through the Equality Act 2010 brought together previous anti-discrimination laws under one act, with the intention that it protects workers and society from various forms of discrimination (UK Government, 2013). Whereas Common laws forms the legal basis of the employer/employee relationship… In addition, the law of tort will govern matters such as an employer’s liability for the acts of its employees and liability for industrial accidents (Tim Russell, 2018). However, in some cases judges have demonstrated a degree of judicial creativity to imply a contract of employment (Governance and Tripartism Department, 2013).
The court of appeal in the case law of Hatton vs Sutherland (2002) outlined 16 practical propositions to provide guidance on the principals applied in occupational stress claims, of which one of the guidance provided was that the eligibility of the employer to assume that the employee could withstand the normal pressure of the job (The HR Exchange, UK, 2012, p. 5)