Health and safety proposals to exclude self-employed workers

Submitted by claudiaobrien on Wed, 04/02/2015 - 11:40

3 February 2015

The Deregulation Bill entered report stage in the House of Lords today (February 3). The Lords began the session with discussion on the exemption of self-employed persons from the requirements of Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

The amendment went to a vote with 253 for the exemption and 175 against. The amendment will mean that self-employed workers who work as sole traders will no longer be covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act, unless they work in a select list of occupations and sectors.

Members also voted on a section of the bill seeking to remove the power of employment tribunals to make recommendations to employers after a finding of unlawful discrimination, harassment or victimisation and where the successful claimant no longer works for the company. The section remains in the bill after 234 votes for and 194 votes against.

As it says on the tin, the Deregulation Bill provides for the removal of regulations on business, civil society, individuals and public sector bodies. The Bill claims to remove “burdens” on business and taxpayer, when in reality this equates to the elimination of safeguards against illness and injury for working people.

In Regulatory Surrender: Death, Injury and the Non-Enforcement of law, Steve Tombs and David Whyte examine the development of Health and Safety regulation being presented as an economic “burden”.

In the House, Lord Jordan said; “My Lords, the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 transformed the safety landscape for all people at work. For the first time, it told everyone at work, “You are responsible for safety”. The Government’s proposals concerning the self-employed are a step backwards, telling some people, “Don’t worry, you are not responsible if someone gets hurt. Those who know the world of work are telling the Government that they have got it wrong. The Government have told them that the cost of regulation will be reduced, but they know that the cost of regulation pales into insignificance against the cost of accidents”.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said “This is one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation that has ever come before the House of Lords.

“The changes will mean that the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities will be powerless to stop millions of self-employed workers putting themselves and the public at risk, unless they work in a select list of occupations or sectors.

“These proposals are virtually a licence to kill. It will be a green light to cowboys and incompetents to cut corners and take risks – not only with their own lives but also with those of others.

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