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Employment Law: Claims for lost earnings due to stress on the increase in banking

Working in the financial sector usually means long hours, targets to be met and, increasingly these days, a lack of job security. It's no wonder then that workers in the industry are making more claims for lost earnings through stress than ever before.

London-based law firm GQ Employment Law have reported receiving considerably more stress-related legal claims in 2011 than in 2010.

Jon Gilligan, partner at GQ Employment, said: "The incredibly tough trading conditions and volatility of the last four years has led to record levels of stress and mental illness within the City.

"The vast majority of cases tend to get settled out of court, but there are more cases and more higher-value cases coming across our desk this year compared to last year."

According to the Health and Safety Executive "work-related stress is defined as a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work."

The HSE's statistics show that in 2010/11 10.8 million working days were lost to work-related stress: an average of 27 days per person.

And in the financial services and insurance industry, the HSE estimates around 18,000 people in the UK suffered from work-related stress caused by their job last year.

Mr Gilligan said: "The struggle to deliver on income targets, the shadow of redundancy and the long-hours culture has created a pressure-cooker environment. The trend that we have seen in employment claims is something that occupational health therapists are also seeing.

"If a senior banker or trader is no longer able to work because of stress then that can mean a claim for lost income easily running into the tens of millions of pounds."

A recent case in London concerned a stressed-out secretary who worked at a City investment bank. Based on her £45,000 salary, she was able to successfully make a claim from her employer for £835,000, which is nearly 20 years of lost earnings.

Mr Gilligan said: "The claims are often so big that employers are forced to settle the cases before they reach a tribunal."

Have you ever suffered from a stress-related illness caused by your job? Is it right that employers have a legal responsibility to reduce stress in the workplace? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Related links:
Read more on the story (Reuters)
Workplace stress and where to get help (FindLaw)
Find local employment solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)