A type of ‘survivor syndrome’ can be cultivated by businesses accidentally when mass redundancies take place. Those left behind may experience increased pressure through work overload or changes in working patterns. Morale may also dip when good colleagues are lost, so it is important for employers to know what to do with the increased chance of stress-related claims if they fail to manage the redundancy process properly.
What kind of claims can redundancy survivors make?
There is a possibility of stress-related personal injury claims. There is a common law duty for employers to take a reasonable amount of care for the health and safety of employees in the workplace. They should assess the risk of stress due to work in employees and take measures to control this. The HSE’s “management standards” – statements of good practice meant to assist employers in dealing with stress – could be used to do this.
For employees to be successful with a claim, they must:
- prove that the employer has breached their duty of care towards them.
- prove that they have suffered personal injury as a result.
- prove that the injury was “reasonably foreseeable” as an outcome of the employer’s actions.
No jobs, regardless of how stressful they are, can be seen as dangerous to mental health. But they can, however, cause injury through stress-related illnesses that may lead to psychiatric injury.
Why might there be an increase in disability claims after redundancies?
Although employers may have taken a vast amount of care during the redundancy process, this is often not followed through into the post-redundancy environment. Therefore employers may face more disability discrimination claims if the working conditions in a reduced workforce worsen the medical conditions of the surviving employees. Disability does need to be substantial and long term to be considered in disability discrimination claims.
Employers must identify what is happening and, most importantly, consider whether reasonable adjustments should be made. Employers who don’t monitor employees’ workloads and duties in a post-redundancy environment could face a “failure to make reasonable adjustments” claim in place of a disability discrimination one.
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