Can I Sue My Employer For...?

Caragh Bailey
10 min read
Can I sue my employer for stress and anxiety? from Employment Law Friend: A judges gabble rests on an old leather bound book titled 'employment law'

For what reasons can you sue your employer?

There are many reasons you can sue your employer, or bring a claim to the employment tribunal. Most claims fall into one, or a few of the following categories. You can read more about them by clicking through to read our main pages on these types of claims.

Are employers responsible for employee stress?

Your employer has a certain amount of responsibility over your wellbeing at work. For example they must take every reasonable measure to ensure you are not discriminated against or harassed and that your health and safety is protected in accordance with the law. However, it is your responsibility to communicate any issues in this regard to your employer, in accordance with their procedure, if they have one.

If they have not responded sufficiently to your reports, contact us to see if you have a case.

If your stress is caused by something that is not in itself covered by law, such as non-discriminatory bullying, but it is making your working conditions intolerable, they would still have a duty of care to take reasonable measures to resolve the issue, such as disciplinary action against the bully. Failure to do so could be a breach of the implied term of mutual trust. (This means that your employers action, or failure to act has destroyed your working relationship of trust and confidence). You may be able to bring a claim under breach of contract.

Even if your stress is not work related, your employer may need to make accommodations for you under disability discrimination protection. This means that if your stress is bad enough to be classed as a disability, then your employer is responsible for looking after you as if you had any other disability.

How do you prove work-related stress?

Work related stress is classed as an adverse reaction to your demands or pressure from your work or your employer. It can be difficult, when bringing a claim, to prove that the stress has been caused by your work and not from external factors. If you can get confirmation from a medical professional you may be able to bring a claim against your employer for damages. There are also certain factors identified by the HSE as potential causes of stress. If you can show that your employer has not properly risk assessed these, or responded to signs of your stress with appropriate support, this will support your case.

Check out the HSE standards at GOV.UK

How much can I claim for work-related stress?

In order to get a more accurate figure for your specific case, you will need an consultation with a qualified employment solicitor. For a ball park figure see the different classifications of psychiatric harm below, by severity. Of course, even if the severity of your workplace stress is such that your potential claim in high, this is no guarantee that you will win it.

Fairly Minor
Short term panic attacks or issues with few or no ongoing symptoms
Between £1,440 and £5,500
Stress which has no long term issues and is mostly confined to the workplace
Between £5,500 and £17,900
Moderately Acute
Medium term quality of life affected
Between £17,900 and £51,460
Bad effect on quality of life. Severe symptoms that are likely to last for a long while
Between £51,460 and £108,620
You can sue your employer if they have set you up to fail within a grievance or disciplinary procedure. Sadly, many managers set unrealistic expectations on employees to set them up to fail, in an attempt to 'manage them out'. This is when your boss has already decided to fire you but has to go through the motions of a disciplinary or grievance procedure to comply with employment law. They set you up to fail so that what should be a fair opportunity to keep your job is actually a rigged test where you get fired at the end. Perhaps they don't even fire you, but the process was set up to threaten your job security and, essentially, bully you.

Check out the ACAS code of practise on disciplinary and grievance procedures to see if your employer is playing by the rules.

If you have lost your job, you may be able to sue your employer for setting you up to fail, under unfair dismissal.

Is it illegal for an employer to give out personal information?

In the UK your personal data is legally protected under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This means that your employer must have appropriate technical and organisational measures to protect the data they collect about you and to obtain your consent where required. However, employers regularly share your personal information legally. For example, they may share your details with a third party payroll company.

Can you sue your employer for breach of confidentiality?

A data breach is when your personal data is lost, destroyed, accessed or disclosed in an unauthorised way. This could be by accident or on purpose. In order to sue your employer for a breach of confidentiality, the breach must meet two criteria:
    The breach of confidentiality must have broken either GDPR, or, the organisations own privacy policy.
    The breach of confidentiality must have caused you some form of loss.

What is considered confidential employee information?

Most cases of data breach involve health, or medical information, financial information, social services documents, or sensitive, confidential information.

For example:
  • HR may hold personal information regarding your health which caused you to take time off of work, such as miscarriage.
  • Your employer may hold social services documents if you are being assessed for eligibility to adopt a child.
  • Your employer, or a payroll company, holds your bank details and records of your income and PAYE tax records

How much can you get from suing your employer for data breach?

In order to get a more accurate figure for your specific case, you will need an consultation with a qualified employment solicitor. Compensation ranges from £900 for less serious, one off incidents, to £42,900 where there has been a protected pattern of fault, with medical evidence that this has caused depression of illness.

How do you defend yourself against false accusations at work?

Being falsely accused of something is a difficult and stressful experience, when it happens at work it may threated your job security, your financial security and your career. Start with these tips for handling the accusations:

  • Stay calm, breathe and relax your tone, volume and body language
  • Cooperate with investigations and be truthful
  • Document all of the details and offer any supporting evidence
  • Seek legal advice and gather witnesses

If the accusations are not properly investigated, or they wrongly find you to be guilty, you can raise a grievance against your employer, or appeal the outcome of the investigation.

Click these links to check your employer is following the correct disciplinary procedure and grievance procedure. If this does not produce a satisfactory resolution, or if the false accusations are coming directly from your employer, you can make a claim to the employment tribunal.

Can I sue my employer for misrepresentation?

If your employer has misrepresented something to you, causing you detriment, see 'Can I sue my employer for lying?' below.

If your employer has given you a bad reference, read about CV references here
This depends on whether your bonus is contractual or discretionary, to generalise, your employer has to pay you your contractual bonus, in accordance with the terms of your contract. your discretionary bonus is at your employer's discretion. However, Your employer must be fair when deciding your discretionary bonus. While they can decide whether they grant a discretionary bonus, how much they pay and who gets it, your employer must exercise their discretion in good faith and on reasonable grounds.

If they have withheld your bonus unreasonably, or simply because they don't like you, you may be able to claim for unlawful deduction of wages, even if the bonus scheme is 'discretionary'

There are certain circumstances where your employer can withhold your bonus pay. Click here to read more about bonus pay.
Where your employer has acted fraudulently, lying or hiding the truth from you, you can claim for compensation for fraud in the civil courts under the 'Tort of Deceit'. You will need to show that:
  • Your employer made a false representation to you
  • Your employer knows that the representation is false, alternatively, they are reckless as to whether it is true or false.
  • Your employer intended that you should act in reliance on it.
  • You did act in reliance on the representation and, in consequence, suffered loss.

Is lying a form of harassment?

If someone is lying to you to make you feel humiliated, unwanted or scared this would be considered bullying. In order for bullying to be classed as harassment, it would have to be based on a characteristic that you have which is protected by The Equality Act 2010.

What is considered unfair treatment in the workplace?

Unfair treatment is discrimination, harassment or victimisation based on a protected characteristic under The Equality Act 2010. You may also be protected from unfair treatment based on being a part time or agency worker, or a member of a trade union.

Go to our page on discrimination to find out what you can do if you are being treated unfairly, whether due to your protected characteristic or otherwise. There are some important steps you should consider taking before you sue your employer.

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Constructive dismissal

If your employer's conduct or working conditions are so intolerable that you have to quit your job, you may be able to bring a claim for constructive dismissal.

Frequently Asked Questions
There are lots of factors to weigh up when making the decision is it worth suing your employer. Take a look at the financial and time costs that could be involved in our article on employment tribunal costs.
You can sue a company that you still work for. In fact in many cases, by the time you have left your job you may have missed your employment tribunal time limit. However, cases which can go to civil court instead have a much longer limitation date, which is usually 6 years.

It is worth checking whether your case can go to tribunal or to court and what time limits are involved to make a claim, if you need to act quickly, you'll need to weigh up whether the unpleasant working atmosphere you can expect from an ongoing legal dispute will be bearable for you.

You may be able to resign under constructive dismissal and sue your employer at the same time, but that involves risks, so you should seek legal advice before taking action.

Do you have a problem with your employer?
There is much more to winning your case than simply being in the right, our specialist employment solicitors know all the laws and tactics, to make sure you get the best chance at a fair settlement. Get in contact with us and see how we can help.

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This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of our company. For employment law advice please get in contact and speak to your employment law solicitors.
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