A 20-year step backwards for victims of workplace accidents

Denise Kitchener, our Business Development Director, reflects the firm’s dismay at the Government’s latest assault on employee rights… 

denise_kitchenerOn Tuesday 1 October 2013, provisions of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act came into force. This one piece of legislation takes health and safety in the UK and Scotland back over 100 years.

Section 69 of the Act amends section 47 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 attaching civil liability to breaches of health and safety regulations. The Act removes that attachment, meaning victims of workplace accidents need to establish common law negligence on the part of their employer or other wrongdoer if they are to recover damages.

The Government claims that health and safety standards will be maintained because of the threat of criminal prosecution, but we know this is a very seldom used deterrent.

Over the last twenty years we have seen the majority of the health and safety regulations introduced. And, during that same period, with the help of civil protection, the Health and Safety Executive has reported a drop in workplace deaths by 50%. It is highly unfortunate – but nevertheless likely – that as a result of the removal of civil protection, more workers will die or be seriously injured.

In addition, civil claims which are currently fairly straightforward will become more complex. Liability under the statutory regulations will be replaced by debates on whether the employer’s actions were unreasonable. This will lead to many working people who are victims of employer negligence either not receiving compensation or waiting many years for it.

 Justice …. what justice?

Current Controversies, Denise Kitchener, Employment,
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