Rachel Dineley: How far should employers’ duty of care go?

A recent High Court case gives useful insight into approaches taken by courts to an employer’s duty of care in anticipating a worker’s psychiatric illness, and how to manage risks in that regard.

Rachel Dineley

In Easton v B&Q, an experienced manager claimed for damages in respect of his nervous breakdown following workplace changes, which had caused him undue stress. 

Although he had raised the issues with managers, the court found that his concerns had not been expressed in such terms as to put the employer on notice that there was significant risk, and there was no duty-of-care breach. 

One in four people suffer from mental ill health at some point, and depression affects one in 12 of the working population, so the need to cater for such issues is unquestionable. Many employers could do more in providing training and affordable benefits. 

Since Fit for Work is in its infancy, and may not inspire confidence in many, employers should be proactive in making the most of opportunities to maintain a healthy workforce; it’s plainly in their interests to do so.