Workplace stress thought to be linked to rise in disability discrimination cases

New analysis shows a big rise in claims under disability discrimination legislation, many thought to be linked to mental health issues at work.



The number of disability discrimination claims at Employment Tribunals rose by 37% last year, with speculation that this is due to more cases being taken out related to mental health, according to an analysis by law firm Fox & Partners.

It says the number of disability discrimination claims rose to 6,550 in 2018, up from 4,770 in the previous year and says the increase in disability discrimination claims has been eight times faster than the growth in all claims. The total number of claims at Employment Tribunals increased 4.3% to 178,990 in the last year, up from 171,630 in 2017.

Fox & Partners says many claims of workplace disability discrimination related to the impact of high levels of stress and depression on an individual’s work. For example, employees can often be absent due to stress, and, if they are dismissed or part through another form of disciplinary procedure as a result, many may try to bring a claim, says the firm.

Fox & Partners adds that in many financial services sector jobs levels of high stress can be particularly acute with often long working hours and tight deadlines. It says the number of stress-related absences in financial services is now higher than in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis. The number of working days lost per worker in financial services dues to stress rose to an average of 0.53 days between 2014-15 and 2016-17 – 10% higher than the average 0.48 days between 2007-8 and 2009-10.

Ivor Adair, Partner at Fox & Partners, said: “Discrimination claims related to stress and mental illness are fast becoming a new area of friction between employees and employers.”

“Workers are now facing a range of increased pressures impacting their mental health…

“Employers need to ensure they handle the pressures facing their employees in the correct way. Improved training amongst managers in dealing with mental illness can help them reduce the likelihood of claims by increasing awareness and helping them create ways to ameliorate them.”

There have been a number of employer-led initiatives on mental health in recent years and the Government has pledged to commit to the 40 recommendations of the Stevenson Farmer Review, the independent review of mental health and the workplace published in October 2017.

Fox & Partners adds that the abolition of tribunal fees in July 2017 helped lead to a wave of tribunal claims coming forward. The number of claims related to disability discrimination increased by 99% in the last five years, up from 3,294 in 2012-13.

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