Legal claims by employees in the City who have suffered from stress are reaching “record levels”, an employment law firm has warned.

According to GQ Employment Law, legal cases regarding stress in the City routinely involve multi-million pound claims and can be in the tens of millions.

Stress claims by employees normally fall under personal injury and disability discrimination rules, which means that the damages are uncapped (unlike unfair dismissal damages which are capped at £68,400).

The HSE estimates that 18,000 workers in UK financial services and insurance sector suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety caused by their job in the last 12 months.

Jon Gilligan, Partner at GQ Employment Law, comments: “The incredibly tough trading conditions and volatility of the last four years have led to record levels of stress and mental illness within the City.”

“The struggle to deliver on income targets, the shadow of redundancy and the long hours culture have 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.”

In one of the few City cases to go to court in recent years, a secretary for an investment bank with an annual salary of £45,000 won £835,000 from her employer when she was badly managed following a bout of stress, which equated to nearly 20 years of loss. Many City employees are on much higher salaries and bonuses, meaning their claims would be of much greater value.

Jon Gilligan adds: “The claims are often so big that employers are forced to settle the cases before they reach a tribunal.”

According to GQ Employment Law, stress-related employment claims typically arise when an employee who has returned to work after an initial stress-related absence suffers a further breakdown.

Jon Gilligan explains: “This is when the City’s ‘eat stress for breakfast’ attitude can cause problems.”

He says that when an employee returns from a stress-related absence reasonable adjustment must be made to that employee’s working conditions to prevent them having a relapse. That may include cutting their working hours or forcing them to take a reduced workload.

Jon Gilligan concludes: “It’s important not to throw the employee straight back into the bear pit.”