Employers to remain responsible for health and safety failings

15 March 2013

Posted by Samuel Couratin

Plans to remove legislation that holds employers responsible for breaches of health and safety rules were scrapped last week.

The government's Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill included regulations that would have scrapped employees' right to personal injury claims, unless negligence could be proved.

However, after three days of debate, the House of Lords decided to remove this clause from the bill by a narrow margin of 225 votes to 223. This means employers are still liable to pay compensation if their workers are injured or suffer illness as a result of their work.

Speaking about the proposals, Lord McKenzie commented: "The government seeks to paint a perception of a compensation culture with anecdotal evidence that the threat of being sued is putting employers off recruiting. But surely the task is to focus on the reality and not to pander to this perception."

This view was supported by Lord Wigley of Plaid Cymru who claimed that if the government's plans had been approved it would "turn the clock back to Victorian times" and would be "highly advantageous to negligent employers".

However, those who voted in favour of scrapping public liability for employers said the threat of personal injury claims is damaging small businesses.

Earl Errol commented: "A lot of businesses out there are small businesses, they're struggling, they're on a knife edge and it only takes one of those things with the Health and Safety Executive cracking down and you've had it," the BBC reports.

The Business Minister, Viscount Younger of Leckie, said the government's aim is not to reduce standards, but to restore "common sense" to health and safety.

He stated: "Claims are a burden on employers not just because of the financial costs, but the time and resources required to deal with them and, importantly, the negative impact they have on the wider reputation of the business."

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill introduces reforms in a number of sectors, including competition policy and employment law.

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