New government proposal will mean employee’s face a tougher battle for compensation when injured in the workplace. The clause amends section 47 HSWA to remove the right to bring civil claims for breach of a statutory duty contained in certain health and safety legislation.
The government plans to insert a new clause into the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill that will remove the strict liability duty on employers in relation to certain health and safety legislation.
The new proposals are part of the government’s wider plans to tackle the perceived prevalence of the compensation culture in the UK, which they believe is a driving force behind the excessive “regulatory red tape” that shrouds health and safety in the workplace.
Conservative minister Matthew Hancock described the new clause as being part of the government’s commitment “to reduce the burden of health and safety” and declared that it would provide “important reassurances to employers that they will be liable to pay compensation only when it can be proved that they have been negligent.”
Despite there being very few cases where compensation cases are taken on the basis of strict liability, in relation to those cases it is probable that employee’s will face an up hill struggle to acquire the evidence needed to prove their claim as most often the vital documents and information they require are held by their employers.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) have published an impact assessment of the proposed changes; the BIS have concluded that that number of claims made by employees will almost certainly fall and that the compensation awarded to successful claimants is likely to be smaller.
Senior personal injury lawyers have described these proposals as a means of “protecting the insurance industry at the expense of the tax payer.” They predict that employee’s unable to work as result of injuries sustained in the work place will be forced to rely on state benefits for support, as opposed to the damages they would have received from the employer’s insurers.
Even the BIS conceded that the potential changes to the law may mean that in certain circumstance out of court settlements are replaced with drawn out court battles.
The Bill is due to get its second reading in the House of Lords on 14th November 2012, where it is likely they will face political opposition.