Bulletins

The Enterprise Act: Not the end of workplace injury claims as we know them

March 20, 2018

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 was drafted with the Government aim of cutting health and safety “red tape”. Various parts of this in relation to workplace claims are now in force.

Before that, came media comment on how this might affect those looking to bring a personal injury claim against their employer and whether such cases might be much harder to win.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 was drafted with the Government aim of cutting health and safety “red tape”. Various parts of this in relation to workplace claims are now in force.

Before that, came media comment on how this might affect those looking to bring a personal injury claim against their employer and whether such cases might be much harder to win.

The Government’s own guide to the act, produced by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills in June 2013, says:

“The Act will help businesses by limiting the right to claim for compensation to where it can be proved an employer has acted negligently.  This means in future, if a claim is made, the employer will have the opportunity to defend themselves on the basis of having taken reasonable steps to reduce the risk of an accident.  Providing this reassurance will help businesses have confidence to focus on managing health and safety risks in a sensible and proportionate way”.

So, what does the Act mean in practice and can you still have a claim against your employer with reasonable prospects of success?

You can still make a claim, but prospects of success will now be harder to determine at the outset and in many cases, may be lower than before these legal changes.

Section 69 of the act means that many employees who wish to claim compensation as a result of a workplace accident on or after 1 October 2013, will no longer be able to rely on a breach of health and safety regulations alone to prove their employer was at fault.  There will need to be proof that the employer was actually at fault or negligent (so have breached the duty of care to their employee).

The law works by removing civil liability for breaches of any regulations made under section 15 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This includes many EU regulations, where previously an employer would have been held strictly at fault.

The new regime

It will be necessary to look instead at the duties such as: the duty to provide a safe place of work and safe system of work; the duty to provide safe plant and equipment; the duty to provide competent staff and; the duty to provide supervision and training.  Past case law considering these points will be reviewed and applied, whilst looking at whether the employer has behaved as a reasonable and prudent employer should.

Cases where you will still have better prospects from the outset

The changes do not apply to claims by new and expectant mothers, who will still be able to recover compensation where there has been a breach of health and safety regulations, under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (Civil Liability) (Exceptions) Regulations 2013.

The Employer’s Liability (Defective Equipment) Act 1969 will also remain important for those looking to claim.

Under this Act, if an employee is injured by defective equipment, an employer cannot avoid liability by arguing that the defect is the fault of a third party supplier.  So, if for example, you work as a painter and a bottle of paint thinner suddenly fractures without warning in your hands, causing cuts and chemical burns, you can sue your employer directly and they will be held to have been negligent, even though the product you were using as part of your work was made by someone else.

Summary

Many cases may now be harder to prove and potentially easier to defend than they were before. However, a specialist in accident at work claims will be able to guide you through the process, and help in determining from the outset whether you have a potential claim, the grounds for the claim, assess your prospects of success both at the start of the claim and as an ongoing process.

References and further reading:

Legislation.gov.uk -

Website content note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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