In the recent decision of Mark Hone v Six Continents Retail Limited,
the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the County Court to award Mr
Hone £21,840 in damages for psychiatric injury caused by stress at
work. This case represents something of a change of heart from recent
decisions in this area, the majority of which concluded that the
employee had not made out their case on the crucial question of
reasonable foreseeability.

Mr Hone complained to his employer that his excessive workload
requiring him to work an average of 90 hours per week seven days a week
as a pub landlord caused him to suffer stress causing psychiatric

Mr Hone complained of a "lack of management support" available to
him by way of an assistant manager. At one meeting Mr Hone brought to
his employer's attention that he was working excessively long hours and
was tired. Although accepting that there was a need for an assistant
manager, Mr Hone's employer had not provided one by the time Mr Hone
collapsed after complaining of giddieness and chest pains.

At the heart of the appeal lay the question of whether, from the
time the employer became aware of Mr Hone's workload, it was reasonably
foreseeable that there would be an injury to Mr Hone's health. Lord
Justice Dyson considered the propositions set out by Hale LJ in the
leading case of Hatton v Sutherland (2002), where she stated:
"To trigger a duty to take steps, the indications of impending harm to
health arising from stress at work must be plain enough for any
reasonable employer to realise that he should do something about it".

Applying this to the facts in Hone, it was held that there were
sufficiently plain indications of impending harm to health for a
reasonable employer to realise that he should do something about it. In
particular, Mr Hone had asked for an assistant manager, complained
about excessive hours and tiredness and recorded working hours of
around 90 hours per week (in a seven day week). It was irrelevant that
the employer did not believe these recordings were accurate as it was
accepted in evidence that they could have been a "cry for help" from Mr
Hone. The Judge was also persuaded by the fact that the employers were
aware of the prohibition of working hours in excess of 48 per week
without the employee's consent.

In the earlier decision of Harding v The Pub Estate Co Ltd another
licensed manager blamed the stress of the job when claiming damages for
personal injury. However, his ill health was not held to be reasonably
foreseeable, as no prior warning had been given to the employer to warn
them of the risk to their employee's health. Although this case
concerned physical injury, it was confirmed in Harding that the
principles for determining liability for physical injury caused by
stress at work are the same as those used to assess liability for
psychiatric injury.

The Hone case acts as a warning to employers who turn a deaf ear to
the concerns expressed by employees and highlights the importance of
employees with stress-related problems making their concerns heard.

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