Expert Lawyers Welcome Lords Vote Which Protects Worker’s Rights

Peers Overturn Amendments To Reform Bill

11.03.2013

Specialist workplace injury lawyers have welcomed a vote by peers in the House of Lords to overturn an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill which would have made it difficult for those hurt in work accidents to gain justice for their injuries.

The legislation scrutinised in the House of Lords would have removed the ability of employees injured in accidents at work to rely on a breach of Health and Safety Regulations to access funds for their care and rehabilitation, even if the breach had resulted in a criminal conviction. Employees would have had to prove the actions of their employer were negligent.

Leading workplace injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell say this would have left a large number of people in an impossible position, as victims of injury may not have been able to easily access information and evidence required to prove employers were at fault by establishing that they were negligent.

The law firm says the rights of injured workers ‘have now been protected’ after the proposals were overturned when peers from across the Lords voted to take out the amendment.

David Urpeth, national head of workplace injury at Irwin Mitchell, said: “This proposed change to remove the ability of injured workers to rely on a breach of statutory regulations would have had a significant impact on a large number of people trying to secure access to vital rehabilitation and care they need following injuries sustained at work.

“While we welcome the aim – the removal of unnecessary red tape for businesses - the proposed clause would have had little, or no, impact on employers conducting their business lawfully and went far beyond the steps the Government had said it was going to take, which was to review the small number of regulations that impose a strict liability on the employers (which means they are liable even when it cannot be shown they are at fault.) The major beneficiaries of the proposed changes would have been insurers.”

“It could have resulted in more people, injured through no fault of their own, not being in a position to access justice and the answers they deserve. It would also have left more injured workers dependent on benefits at a significant cost to the taxpayer.

“We are pleased the clause has been overturned would undoubtedly have led to a dilution in the standard of safety in the workplace. The threat of litigation as a result of failing to comply with regulations is what encourages employers and their insurers to comply with health and safety procedures so high standards are maintained at work.”

The bill is due to be discussed further in the House of Lords after which it will return to the House of Commons when the government will have to decide whether to accept the outcome of the Lords vote, protecting worker’s rights or if it wishes to further pursue their removal.