Extension of health and safety detriment protection to workers
by Tamara Barbeary
One of the rights which employees currently have is the right not to be subjected to a detriment for leaving or refusing to return to their workplace in circumstances of danger which they reasonably believe to be serious and imminent, or for taking steps to protect themselves in relation to the danger. This right is found in s44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and was rarely exercised before last year. It is now frequently being used by employees who are anxious about travelling to, or being in work during the coronavirus pandemic.
Following the decision in R (on the application of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions), the Government decided to lay down new Regulations extending this protection so that it now covers workers rather than just employees.
The High Court (in the case of R (on the application of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions) held that confining such protection to just employees was a breach of the EU Health and Safety Framework Direction (No. 89/391). This forced the Government to lay down these new Regulations which are currently awaiting Parliamentary approval and are due to come into force on 31 May 2021.
This extension of health and safety detriment protection will be welcome news for workers. For employers, this potentially increases their exposure to health and safety claims, particularly in matters relating to Covid.
If you require any specific employment law advice, please contact our specialist employment team at Lennons. We can be contacted on 01494 773377 or [email protected].
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