Update to Coalition's plans to reverse 114-year-old employment right - new briefing released
24 October 2012
By Sarah Glenister
This topic will be discussed at our forthcoming Health and Safety conferences in London and Liverpool.
Thompsons Soliticors explains the content and implications of the newly proposed amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which threatens to remove employers' strict liability when a worker is injured on the job.
We reported on October 17th that the government was attempting to slip a potentially serious amendment to the law - which would reverse a 114-year-old fundamental employment right - in through the back door.
Indeed, the Coalition sneaked their changes to health and safety law into the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill at the eleventh hour, and the legislation has now gone through to the House of Lords.
As Keith Patten of Thompsons Solicitors told us last week, this cannot be allowed to "slip in under the radar as a 'technical amendment'". It is imperative that awareness is raised about this drastic change to the law.
Here are the key points relating to the amendment of Section 47 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, according to Thompsons Solicitors' latest briefing:
What is Section 47?
Section 47 states that employers have civil liability for injury to workers while they are on the job and any breach of health and safety laws can be used in a personal injury claim by a worker who comes to harm. It Dates back to 1898, when it was judged that there is "an absolute duty imposed by statute upon his [a servant's] master for his protection".
The Section was removed without a public consultation
How will its removal affect workers?
Workers seeking to make a personal injury claim after being hurt at work will need to be able to prove negligence on the part of their employer. It is also likely that employers will be allowed to use the "general defence of 'reasonable practicability' (that the cost of controlling workplace health and safety risks are "grossly disproportionate" to the reduction in the risk)", according to Thompsons. Additionally, the burden of ensuring compliance to health and safety laws will be left even more up to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and less to the courts. After having their funding stripped and being attacked from all sides, the HSE's enforcement rates are already falling and the body will struggle to keep up. In short: it will be easier for employers to get away with breaking the law.
What are the wider implications?
In the wider scheme of things, this sneaky amendment fits into the picture alongside the abolition of most legal aid, plans to make it prohibitively expensive for low-income workers to take their employer to court, and proposals to reduce the amount injured employees can collect in costs, even if those costs are deemed by the court as necessary to win.
This is an ideological drive to deregulate industry in the interests of employers and to the detriment of workers. Furthermore, the Coalition has once again showed its determination to listen only to the advice it wants to hear, or invent that when opposed by the very experts they hire. Ragnar Lofstedt's review of health and safety law deemed that some consolidation but no cuts in health and safety law were necessary, and despite complaints from Lofstedt himself that he is being misrepresented, the Government continues to falsely claim they are cutting health and safety laws in line with his recommendations.
The briefing in full
See here for the full briefing from Thompsons Solicitors, and look out for more IER news on this topic, as we are following it closely and will report when further details are announced.
Learn more at our Employment Law Update 2012
Wednesday 31 October 2012
Lofstedt has been asked to conduct a second review and OH Parsons' solicitor Steve Cottingham will be updating delegates to our Employment Law Update 2012 conference in Liverpool on the latest in health and safety and the implications of Lofstedt's review and government policy.
The event, which sold-out in London and has received excellent feedback from delegates there, also includes presentations from experts across a wide range of employment law issues, including whistleblowing, equality, discrimination, TUPE, redundancy and tribunals.
This conference is filling up fast, so click here to buy one of our last remaining tickets
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