employment law specialist Bibby Consulting & Support has said.Employers who want to avoid damaging constructive dismissal claims from staff who say they have been off work through stress must make staff realise their condition will be looked into and even challenged at an intensive return to work interview, the
Increasingly, employees are quoting stress as a major reason for taking
time off. With the double dip recession biting and more businesses
having to reduce headcounts, existing staff often have extra work to do –
so obviously many cases are legitimate and employers need to handle
these carefully. But there are some simple tools that employers can use
to filter out the less-than-genuine cases and keep claims against the
company down to a minimum.
One solution is to hold well conducted return to work meetings that get
to the heart of the key issues and record what was said on both sides.
It would also be a good idea to involve occupational health staff in
At the same time, managers should play it by the book when staff return
to work so they don't have legitimate grounds for taking their employer
through an employment tribunal for financial compensation.
Says Bibby Consulting & Support's Managing Director Michael Slade:
"Too many employees are playing the stress card – it's like the new bad
"That's why professionally managed return to work meetings are essential
– they help employers get to the heart of issues affecting staff and
prevent them escalating to the point of a constructive dismissal claim.
If these issues are not addressed up-front, employees could accuse a
manager of bullying them because they were off with stress."
Slade admits that dealing with such matters is often a difficult
balancing act between the needs of the business and the needs of the
employee but well run return to work meetings can satisfy both. For the
employer, though, they provide an opportunity to place a 'benchmark' on
file that allows any future activity, including patterns of absence, to
be measured against.
Slade says: "Employers have a duty of care to protect their employees –
but they must also protect themselves. Stress management is a key means
of making sure that workers understand that there are strict rules and
processes in place. If employees are given clear guidelines and told
that their claims of stress are going to be thoroughly investigated –
including a health check – they will be far less likely to look to a
tribunal for help."