Legislation to extend health and safety detriment protection to workers
The Government has laid legislation before Parliament giving workers protection against detrimental treatment on health and safety grounds. Currently only employees are protected. The changes will come into force on 31 May.
Health and safety protection
Section 44 of the ERA protects employees from being subjected to a detriment by their employer in specific health and safety cases, including:
- If they leave or refuse to return to the workplace because they reasonably believe that attending work would put them in serious and imminent danger (and they could not have been reasonably expected to avert that danger)
- If they take appropriate steps to protect themselves or others, reasonably believing that there is a serious and imminent danger
These protections will be extended to workers from 31 May 2021, meaning that workers, as well as employees, will be able to contest the adequacy and/or suitability of safety arrangements at work without fear of recriminations.
Employment tribunal claims
Where employers do treat employees or workers detrimentally, they may dace an employment tribunal claim with no cap on compensation and a possible injury to feelings awards on top. Workers will be able to bring a claim where the act complained of (or the last of a series of similar relevant acts), occurs on or after 31 May 2021.
The legislation is in response to a High Court decision
last year declaring that, by limiting the protection to employees, the UK had failed to implement the EU Health and Safety Framework Directive correctly.
What does this mean for employers?
The change is particularly important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as these types of claims by employees, and now workers, are increasingly likely. Employers therefore need to be careful when dealing with staff who raise concerns or act on health and safety grounds.
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