Back to the dark side on health and safety law
Return to the dark satanic mills……UK Government drags Health and Safety Law back to 1898
There appears to be no extreme to which the UK Government will not go when it comes to attacking workers rights and terms and conditions. Increasing the qualifying period for employment protection to two years means that thousands of workers have virtually no protection against unfair dismissal by unscrupulous bosses. Abolishing the Agricultural wages board for nearly 14,000 agricultural workers is just another example. But who would have believed they would propose taking health and safety back to Victorian times.
That is exactly what they are doing in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill which was amended at the very last minute in the House of Commons at Report stage to do just that.
The Government have introduced a new Clause 61 which will mean that employers who breach the health at safety at work act will be given civil immunity. What that means is that an injured worker cannot claim that his employers failures under the Health and Safety at Work Act amount to negligence. So , failure to keep a place of work safe, or having unsafe guarding, unsafe machinery, and unsafe walkway will not longer be negligent under the act.
It may amount to a criminal offence, but the employee won’t be able to rely on this failure to claim civil liability in a compensation claim.
In order to claim compensation the worker will have to rely on common law negligence.
For over a hundred years workers have been able to rely on health and safety laws which impose strict obligations on employers for the protection of workers. Since 1898 in the case of Groves –v- Lord Wimborne the Court of Appeal has set the law saying:
“the defence of common employment is not applicable where injury has been caused to a servant by the breach of an absolute duty imposed by statute upon his master for his protection”
This is yet another attack on working people in favour of unscrupulous businesses and the insurance industry. Having abolished legal aid for the the most vulnerable in society ,it is yet another restriction on access to justice.
Mick Antoniw is Assembly Member for Pontypridd
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