Local authorities on stress alert after landmark ruling

8 Jul 99
Local authorities may have to boost efforts to combat stress and bullying at work after two councils this week paid damages of more than £150,000 to ex-employees.

09 July 1999

In a landmark ruling on July 5, Birmingham City Council was ordered to pay £67,000 to ex-housing officer Beverley Lancaster for the stress she suffered after switching jobs without adequate training.

On the same day, it was revealed that Liverpool City Council had reached an out-of-court settlement with Cath Noonan, who retired from its social services department two years ago after claiming she had been exposed to bullying and intimidation. She will receive £85,000.

Although neither case is expected to open the floodgates, the Employers' Organisation for Local Government said it was vital councils took both seriously.

Lancaster became a housing officer in 1993 after her clerical post was abolished. She was unused to dealing with members of the public, let alone disgruntled tenants. The council this week admitted it had failed to provide her with the necessary training.

Lancaster retired on ill-health grounds in 1997. Her case is the first where an employer has admitted liability in court and been ordered to pay damages by a judge.

A spokeswoman for public service union Unison, which supported Lancaster, dismissed reports that it is investigating thousands of stress-related complaints by its members, but said it hoped councils would review their procedures.


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