If you are unlucky enough to have suffered a personal injury in the workplace, in order to successfully pursue a work accident claim against your employer for damages you must be able to prove that the personal injury and loss suffered was caused a result of their negligence. There are strict time limits which are applicable to all claims for personal injury, in that a claim must be brought within 3 years from the date of the accident or the date of knowledge of the injury. The level of damages will be entirely dependent upon the severity of the injury sustained (this makes up an award called ‘general damages) and the financial losses suffered as a result of the negligence and/or breach of statutory duty (this makes up an award called ‘special damages’).
An employer has both a common law and statutory duty to protect its employees. The duty is to take “reasonable care” and this standard necessitates that an employer must assess the potential risk of injury occurring to an employee and the cost of putting such safety precautions in place. For an employer, the statutory duties set out within the “Six-Pack Regulations” place a heavy emphasis on risk assessment and measures that should be put in place. Or at least this used to be the case, prior to October 2013.
Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act (ERRA) 2013 came into force on 1st October 2013 and the entirety of the Act will be in force in April 2014. It is the Government’s view that the “Six-pack” regulations (the statutory duty) forced businesses to over comply with the law, resulting in unnecessary costs. The Government argue that removing the statutory duty will increase the confidence of employers/businesses in the procedures they have in place. In 2010, David Cameron requested a review of Health and Safety Legislation and the review found an increase in the “compensation culture” which led to “businesses being drowned in red tape and the fear of being sued for even a minor accident”.
What implications will the Act have on a Claimant looking to claim for compensation?
In a nutshell, the implications of the ERRA 2013 will mean that the employee will have to prove that their employer has not fulfilled its duty to take reasonable care. Pre-October 2013, a Claimant could allege that a specific workplace regulation had been breached and that it was this breach that resulted in the injury.
However, employers cannot be held liable for damages for a breach of the “Six-Pack” Regulations anymore. The only duty an employer has to protect its employees is that governed under common law. Namely, to provide:
- A safe premises and a safe place of work;
- Safe plant, materials and equipment;
- A safe system of work and safe working practices and;
- Competent staff as colleagues.
This enormous shift is without doubt outrageous. Although, it is notable that the number of workers bringing claims against their employers will not decrease: the number of successful claims will. Moreover, it is likely that findings of contributory negligence will become more frequent. It will be significantly harder to prove that an employer has been negligent and is yet another obstacle that the Government has put in place for an honest Claimant to overcome in order to prove his/her case.
If you, or a family member, have suffered personal injury and other loss as a result of the negligence of your employer, contact our experienced personal injury team today for a free claim assessment.
By Nick Molyneux, Accident at Work Solicitor