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barber, somerset, county council, personal injury, stress, occupational, sickness absence
Half the population are bullied ... most only recognize it when they read this

House of Lords judgement in Barber v. Somerset County Council

Key points:

1 An "autocratic and bullying style of leadership" which is "unsympathetic" to complaints of occupational stress are factors that courts can take into account in deciding whether there has been a breach of duty.

2 Employers must keep up-to-date with the developing knowledge of occupational stress and the probable effectiveness of the precautions that can be taken to meet it.

3 Once an employer knows that an employee is at risk of suffering injury from occupational stresss/he is under a duty to do something about it. This duty continues until something reasonable is done to help the employee.

4 Employees who complain do not need to be forceful in their complaints and need not describe their troubles and symptoms in detail. After all, they may be ill at the time when they are complaining. Their complaints should be listened to sympathetically.

5 Certified sickness absence due to stress or depression needs to be taken seriously by employers. It requires an inquiry from the employer about the employees problems and what can be done to ease them. They should not be brushed off unsympathetically or by sympathising but simply telling him or her to prioritise his work without taking steps to improve or consider the situation further.

6 A management culture that is sympathetic to employees suffering from occupational stress and "on his side" in tackling it, may make a real difference to the outcome. Monitoring employees who are known to be suffering from occupational stress is mandatory. If they don't improve more drastic steps may need to be taken to help them. Temporary recruitment may be required. Although this will cost money, it will be less costly than the permanent loss through psychiatric illness of a valued member of staff.

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