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Employers' liability for occupational stress and death from overwork in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Kobayashi, Tamie; Middlemiss, Sam


Tamie Kobayashi

Sam Middlemiss


The premise of this article is that those persons that excessively overwork can die as a result through stress related illness or suicide. In this article we will undertake a comparative analysis of the legal treatment of stress related illness at work and in particular death by overwork (known as Karoshi in Japan). The legal rules governing this aspect of health and safety in the United States and the United Kingdom will be considered primarily, because these are countries where this problem has not been properly recognised and accordingly legislators and the judiciary in both the US and the UK have largely failed to address it. Despite this it is a fact that organisations in these countries have the worst record for requiring their workforce to work excessively and/or for long-hours. Research has shown this leads to stress related illness and sometimes death by overwork in organisations. The failure to take legal action to deal with this problem in the US and UK is all the more surprising and disappointing because these countries (alongwith Japan where it is legally recognised) have the richest economies in the world. It is now accepted that a working pattern and culture of long hours and excessive working adversely impacts on workers by putting at risk their physical and/or mental health and it is important to consider how workers in this position are dealt with by employers and within the legal framework of both jurisdictions.


KOBAYASHI, T. and MIDDLEMISS, S. 2009. Employers' liability for occupational stress and death from overwork in the United States and the United Kingdom. Common law world review [online], 38(2), page 137-169. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 1, 2009
Online Publication Date Jun 1, 2009
Publication Date Jun 30, 2009
Deposit Date May 21, 2014
Publicly Available Date May 21, 2014
Journal Common law world review
Print ISSN 1473-7795
Electronic ISSN 1740-5556
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 38
Issue 2
Pages 137-169
Keywords Employers; Liability; Death; Over work; UK; US
Public URL


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