scots law
basic advice from govan law centre

stress at work


  • If you suffer from ‘stress at work’ you have a number of options – some of which will require the co-operation of your employer.

  • If you want to remain in your job, and it is practical to do so, you can try and solve the problem by informal discussion with your line-manager or by submitting a formal grievance. Your employer should have a grievance procedure. You may wish to contact your local health board for a list of agencies providing counselling and support.

  • If the matter remains unresolved you may wish to consider a claim against your employer for damage to health. In these circumstances, you may have already considered resigning and claiming constructive dismissal (whereby your employer has left you with no other option) – if you are considering this option you should obtain advice first from your local law centre or other employment law solicitor.

  • Employers have a common law duty of care for their employees’ physical and psychological health. An employer should provide a safe system of work, safe means of access, plant and equipment, competent and safe employees, and should protect you against unnecessary risk of injury. These duties are implied into your contract of employment as a matter of law.

  • The Scottish courts have held that an employer/employee duty of care exists even if no physical injury has occurred (Brown –v- Glasgow Corporation 1922 SC 527). In the case of Page –v- Smith (1995 IRLR 536), the House of Lords held that there was no general justification for regarding physical and psychiatric injuries as different types of injuries in negligence cases.

  • In order to succeed in a stress at work claim it is necessary to show (a) evidence of genuine psychological damage; (b) a causative connection or link between the ‘stress at work’ and illness; and (c) that the illness was reasonably foreseeable by the employer.

  • Time limits – The Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973, as amended, provides that a personal injury claim (including stress related claims) must be raised, in court, within three years of the date upon which the injury became known to the employee.

  • If you suffer from stress at work and need help you can contact your local law centre or a firm of solicitors, who practice in the field of employment law, for further information and assistance.