Stress policy changed after £200,000 payout

13 Jan 00
A local authority insisted this week that it had taken steps to reduce stress among employees after paying a record £203,000 to a former warden at a site for gypsies.

14 January 2000

Worcestershire County Council agreed to pay the money to Randy Ingram in an out-of-court settlement on January 10, less than a week after admitting that it was also responsible for stress suffered by another warden, Rob Winskill, who received £14,500.

Both men are members of Unison, which has now won a total of more than £600,000 from public sector employers in major stress-related claims in the past five years.

Last year the Trades Union Congress announced a 70% increase in the number of stress-related cases taken up by trade unions. The largest settlements, including £67,000 won by former Birmingham City Council housing worker Beverley Lancaster last July, have involved public sector employers.

The Health and Safety Executive, which estimates 6.5 million working days are lost each year because of stress, is due to publish the results of consultations over a possible approved code of practice for employers within the next few months.

Ingram and Winskill claimed that Hereford and Worcester County Council, which was abolished in 1998, did not offer them sufficient support in running their sites. This left them isolated and powerless – a situation which was exploited by some travellers and led to both men suffering physical and verbal abuse.

Ingram retired in 1997, while Winskill is off work due to ill health. Worcestershire, which inherited the assets of the old council following local government reorganisation, said the awards would be covered by its insurance policy.

The council has reorganised its gypsy service to increase liaison and support. All council staff receive occupational counselling, while lone workers such as wardens can contact colleagues in emergencies. 'The procedures in place now would give them the support that was perceived to be lacking at the time,' said Chris Carter, head of planning.


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