08 March 2013
The House of Lords has thrown out Clause 62 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which sought to remove employers’ 114-year-old civil liability for their workers’ health and safety.
Through briefings and regular news and comment, the Institute of Employment Rights has been at the forefront of providing the latest updates on the progress of the plans, which were added rather sneakily as an amendment to the Bill when it went to report stage. This means it has received no public consultation and has not been put forward for debate in the House of Commons.
However, after 225 members of the Lords rejected the proposals, the issue will be pushed back the House of Commons where it can be broached by MPs for the first time.
Lord Wigley described the government’s intentions as “highly advantageous to negligent employers”, who would no longer be responsible for providing evidence that their workplaces were operating within health and safety legislation in the case of an incident that went to tribunal. Instead, injured workers would be required to prove that the business was in breach of health and safety regulation when their accident occurred. As Lord Wigley highlighted, it is employers “who of course control the workplace and equipment, and are more familiar with the workings of the business”, so it would be prohibitively difficult for employees to provide the evidence they need to support their case, it being largely in the hands of the employer.
While it is of course good news that the government’s proposals will be forced back the House of Commons for debate, it was a close call as to whether the changes would be passed into law without a fight, with the vote ending at 225 voting to overturn Clause 62 against 223 voting to keep it.
The Institute of Employment Rights considers the removal of employers’ civil liability for the welfare of their workers to be an extremely regressive affront to employees across the UK. It has also been demonstrated that Clause 62 is an entirely ideological move, with no evidence found to back up the government justifications for it, which included the existence of a so-called ‘compensation culture’ that has already been shown to be a myth.
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