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Government propose changes to Health and Safety Regulations

9th Sep 2016

On 16 October 2012, the government introduced a new clause to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, proposing to shift the burden of proof of negligence from the employers to the employees in events that stem from breaches of the Health and Safety Regulations. The bill is currently under debate and returns to the House of Lords on the 22nd April 2013.

The current position is that where an employer has failed to adhere to health and safety regulations, and this caused injuries to his/her employees, the employer would be held accountable on grounds of strict liability. This proposal, however, if enacted, would remove the element of strict liability, i.e. the onus of proof is then shifted to the vulnerable employee to prove that the employer has indeed been negligent.

“This proposal is grossly unfair,” said Karl Tonks, President of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL). “It will make bringing some valid claims for compensation extremely difficult, and many people are likely to shy away from bringing a claim altogether.” “It is the duty of employers to provide safe workplaces, not the duty of employees to keep negligent bosses in check.”

The proposal was defeated in the House of Lords, where Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Haywood, a former Supreme Court Justice, highlighted the difficulties experienced by workers in proving the negligence of their employers. He said that, when he worked as a barrister, a number claims were lost “because the Claimants were not able to assemble all the evidence necessary to prove actual negligence.”

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