About the course
Work related stress is a growing concern for employers as it is generating increasing claims against employers by employees who believe they have been disadvantaged, harmed or forced to resign because of poorly managed workplaces.
Stress is often raised as a shield when employers try to address poor performance or misconduct. When employees are frequently ill or have a serious condition, employers can find managing the employee or (as a last resort) dealing with termination of employment very difficult.
Employers need to understand the causes of workplace stress, and the correct processes to deal with sick employees, in order to avoid risk.
- Understanding what stress means in the context of workplace stress claims
- Establishing procedures and dealing with illness or stress situations correctly as they arise
- Know your legal obligations as an employer
- Take all practicable steps to prevent workplace stress
- Learn from leading cases and recent case law regarding workplace stress
“A risk may not be apparent without specific information about the vulnerability of a particular employee...If the risk is one which applies generally, then knowledge of specific vulnerability may be irrelevant. If the employer unreasonably fails to take all steps practicable to remove or manage the risk and it is reasonably foreseeable that any employee may suffer harm as a result, then the employer will be in breach of the term of the contract to maintain safe working conditions. It was not necessary in the circumstances for there to be “direct warning of imminent breakdown on the part of the [employee]”, as suggested on behalf of the [employer]” - Court of Appeal
Understanding workplace stress
- Defining workplace stress/psychosocial harm
- Stress or stress–related illness?
- Most common workplace stressors
Work related stress and illness claims
- Lessons from work related stress claims cases
- Leading cases and recent case law regarding illness including:
- Brickell v Attorney-General  2 ERNZ 529 (HC)
- Benge v Attorney-General  2 ERNZ 234 (HC)
- Attorney-General v Gilbert  1 ERNZ 31 (CA)
- Davis v Portage Licensing Trust  ERNZ 268 (EC)
- Mitchell v Blue Star Print Group (NZ) Ltd  ERNZ 594 (EC)
- Alo v New Zealand Customs Service unreported, M Urlich, 29 June 2010, AA 305/10 (ERA)
- Understanding the cost and financial implications of workplace stress
- Dealing with medical information
Legal & practical implications
- Employer’s duties under HSE Act, good faith, IEA
- “All reasonably practicable steps” employers might take
- Contractual measures
- Sensible policies & procedures, IEA clauses
- Dealing with illness & absence
- When can the employer cry halt?
How to deal with stress related claims
- Sick leave issues
- Responding to the claim: defences, risk assessments, medical evidence, mediation, presenting the case in defence
Johanna is a founding partner in Dyhrberg Drayton Employment Law. The firm’s clients are public and private sector employers and employees. Johanna previously worked in a large law firm (DLA Phillips Fox), and then as a partner in a boutique litigation law firm (Parker & Associates). She is the author of the Privacy, Official Information and Human Rights Act chapters in the legal text The Law of Civil Remedies, published by Thomson Reuters.
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