Proposals will ‘erode workplace safety’
Legislation that will make it harder for employees to claim compensation for accidents in the workplace will take workers’ rights back to those of “Victorian times”, according to critics.
Under the tough new rules injured workers would have to prove their employer was negligent and directly responsible for the accident before they are eligible for compensation.
Labour claims that the proposals, which would see health and safety laws amended to reduce employers’ liability for accidents, were “sneaked into Parliament”.
The government said that changing health and safety legislation would cut red tape and stop employers from having to pay out for “spurious” personal injury claims.
However, unions claim the changes will increase litigation costs, erode workplace safety standards and make it harder for workers legitimate claims to get compensation.
But the Department of Business denied the changes would remove the right to bring a personal injury claim against an employer for negligence.
A spokesman said: “Currently, most claims are brought for both breach of statutory duty and negligence. The change only affects those claims which rely on a technical breach where there is no evidence the employer was at fault.”
Although the Government seeks to cut red tape and remove unfairness, there is a risk that dismantling of health and safety laws may have a dramatic affect on the health of workers.
There is already evidence that will concern stakeholders, with the revelation that fatal workplace accidents are on the increase. The last two years show a higher incidence of fatal accidents at work of over 170, compared with 2009/10, when there were 147 deaths.
The concern is that the last two years statistics are not a blip, but the beginning of a trend, that will continue for some years.
If the Government enacts the amendments to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform bill, the Coalition will remove the 114 year right to rely on breaches of health and safety regulations in civil claims. This cannot be good for workers or business.
Surely a culture of safety, which protects the workforce to maximise their contribution to the business, is required. The dismantling of rules that have existed for over a century do not make sense at a time when work related deaths is on the rise, there are well over 100,000 non-fatal workplace injuries and the number of deaths from asbestos related disease is still increasing.