Stress injuries are on the rise but are they covered by Employers’ Liability insurance?
Stress in the workplace is classified as an injury when physical and psychological symptoms begin to manifest. The most typical physical symptoms can include stomach pains, headaches, frequent indigestion, pains in the chest, while the psychological symptoms may include anxiety or insomnia.
A recent ESRI study, funded by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), found that stress among employees in Ireland doubled from 8% in 2010 to 17% in 2015. The study identified that job stress is more common among people experiencing high levels of the following workplace demands:
- Emotional demands, e.g. dealing with angry clients
- Time pressure
- Bullying, harassment, violence, discrimination, etc.
- Long working hours.
According to findings from the VHI Health Insights Report on mental health in the corporate workplace, published last year, more than 1 in 5 employees in corporate Ireland are extremely or very stressed, with almost 1 in 3 reporting more stress now than two years ago. More than a third of corporate employees reported that the stress in their current employment has caused them to consider moving jobs, and 1 in 5 has missed work in the past year due to stress, anxiety or depression. Some studies have estimated that 30% of workplace sickness absence is caused directly by stress and can even lead to early retirement.
Under current legislation, employers are required to ensure that the demands placed on workers are reasonable and that control measures are in place. However, employer survey data suggests that only 40% of Irish firms have policies in place to deal with job stress.
But are stress claims covered by a standard Employers’ Liability insurance policy?
It really depends on the allegations being made by the employee, specifically what they allege as the source of the stress and what they allege are their injuries/symptoms.
The core intention of Employers’ Liability insurance is to cover claims arising out of “bodily injury” to employees sustained during the employment. But policies differ on the definition of “bodily injury”. Many Employers’ Liability policies define it as “bodily injury including illness or disease” but some will go further and include terms such as “mental injury, mental anguish or shock that results in an identifiable psychiatric injury”. So a physical injury such as losing a limb and the resultant psychiatric conditions that might go along with this would generally be considered straight-forward Employers’ Liability claim but allegations of stress where no identifiable event which caused a physical injury occurred, may not be covered.
Employment Practices Liability Insurance
With the growth in stress injuries, it is now advisable for all businesses to purchase Employment Practices Liability (EPL) Insurance in addition to standard Employers’ Liability Insurance. This cover is relatively inexpensive but is becoming more and more important as a core protection for businesses. The primary intention of EPL insurance is to cover non-physical-injury employment claims such as alleged, wrongful or unfair, employment related; discipline, dismissal, breach of contract, discrimination, harassment, defamation or infliction of emotional distress. EPL insurance generally covers mental or emotional stress claims which arise from a covered EPL event.
Employers’ Liability insurance is primarily designed to cover claims arising from physical injury to employees and resultant stress. Employment Practices Liability insurance is primarily designed to cover non-physical-injury employment claims as well as resultant stress. Given the rise in stress injuries over recent years, business should ideally now purchase both policies to have wider protection.
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Disclaimer: The material contained is this article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice.