Protection of Harassment Act offers claimants higher damages and a longer limitation period

Insurers face a rise in claims from workplace disputes and bullying, as employees take advantage of the latest legal rulings.

Law firm Beachcroft says more and more staff are suing employers under the Protection of Harassment Act instead of going through the traditional route of an employer’s tribunal.

The act was introduced in 1997 to deal with complaints of stalking by members of the public. However, in recent years landmark rulings have sparked a wave of liability claims as staff have claimed their companies were liable for bullying or disputes in the workplace.

“The legislation was introduced for one purpose but in many respects is being used for an entirely different one,” Beachcroft partner Paula Jefferson said.

There are several advantages of bringing a claim under the act. Claimants do not have to prove psychiatric injury and the awarded damages tend to be higher than in an employer’s tribunal. In addition, claimants have a longer limitation period of six years for bringing forward a claim, compared with three in an employer’s tribunal – though this brings new problems for investigators.

“It is difficult enough trying to investigate three years after an event, but six years is very, very difficult,” Jefferson said.

Cunningham Lindsey complex loss specialist Craig Faulkner said a lack of clarity around the act would encourage more claims. He called on courts to improve guidelines.