The controversial section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 – which removes strict liability for breaches of certain health and safety regulations – has come into force today.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers claims the new law may come to be known as ‘a charter for rogue bosses’.
The provision, which was strongly opposed by claimant groups and unions, amends section 47 of the Health and safety at Work etc Act 1974 and effectively removes the civil liability on the part of employers for breach of health and safety regulations contained within the 1974 Act – which is effectively all health and safety regulations.
Applying to breaches that occur from today, it means no civil claim can be brought for breach of a health and safety statutory duty unless the regulation expressly provides for it – reversing the previous position. It will, in almost all cases, require the claimant to prove that the employer was negligent and his injury and losses were caused by the employer's negligence.
It is thought that there is an anomaly in that public sector employees will be able to sue their employer under the strict liability provisions contained in European directives that underlie the 1974 Act, however.
“Many people injured through no fault of their own will find it extremely challenging to secure justice,” said APIL president Matthew Stockwell. “The effects are likely to be profound and the consequences will not just affect the employees, but society as a whole.
“The employer holds all the important information about any incident, such as maintenance records or previously reported dangers and risks. The injured employee will have to prove the case against his employer, which can be extremely difficult when he does not have access to this kind of information. Many people will inevitably shy away from making claims altogether.
“The negligent employer will then avoid making amends, leaving the state to pick up the tab for medical care and any benefits arising from the injury.”
Mr Stockwell said that while good employers will not take advantage of this, “rogue employers” will be “more likely to cut corners knowing they may get away with it and it will be the injured person who ultimately pays the price”.