When is an employer accountable for psychiatric injury?
Posted: May 8, 2015
Posted in: Employer Negligence
In recent years stress has become the most common workplace ailment, replacing the previous ‘bad back’. Employers can face serious legal liability if they fail to handle the problem of workplace stress effectively. But the question must be asked, at what point is an employer legally accountable for psychiatric injury?
A recent case at the Court of Appeal provided some helpful guidance regarding the extent to which employers may be responsible for injury caused to an employee in a one-off incident. The Yapp v Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) case concerned the British High Commissioner in Belize, against whom allegations had been made about the harassment of his staff, and also allegations of sexual misconduct.
Developed severe depression and left unable to work
Due to the allegations of sexual misconduct, Mr Yapp was temporarily suspended from his position. He was not provided with any information concerning the allegations, but was told if exonerated the FCO would try to find him a new posting for him. It was later found following an investigation that the allegations of sexual misconduct could not be upheld, but that the bullying accusations were substantiated. Following the ordeal Mr Yapp developed severe depression and was left unable to work. After retiring, he brought proceedings against the FCO.
Mr Yapp argued that the FCO failed to handle his case properly and claimed compensation for loss of earnings over his depression that developed as a result of the case.
This case has been noted as a helpful reminder to employers to ensure that they are implementing all internal procedures efficiently. It also highlights the level of discomfort employees have to meet to show that an employer has caused psychiatric injury.
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