A computer analyst was wrong to say his employer breached health and safety law, ruled a court

A computer analyst unsuccessfully brought a damages claim for harassment and bullying against well-known management consultants Accenture Services Limited after claiming that working on a difficult computer project led to his mental breakdown.

Following an internal grievance procedure, one manager was given an informal warning concerning his management style and another was found to have used inappropriate language, but was deemed not to have bullied the employee, Mr Mullen.

Mullen disagreed with this conclusion and furthermore claimed that his employer was breaching health and safety regulations when it identified the stress levels of the project as “tolerable”, but failed to review the project after it went live.

The court concluded, however, that Mullen’s mental breakdown was not reasonably foreseeable. The claim under the health and safety regulation was also dismissed as previous law cases would be dismantled if an employee’s psychiatric illnesses could automatically prove that their employer had breached the Health and Safety at Work regulation.

According to Roddy Macleod, a partner at law firm Weightmans LLP specialising in stress and harassment, this decision is “common sense” for employers. But “the case raises lessons for risk managers to ensure that risk assessments of stress are properly carried out,” he warned.