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Important Health & Safety Changes - October 2013

The Impact of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013

Before this Bill was introduced, David Cameron made a plea for common sense to prevail in the Health & Safety framework and an end to the compensation culture which he perceived was sweeping through the United Kingdom.

Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act came into force on 1st October 2013 and it is generally to be welcomed by employers who feel they have taken all reasonable steps to safeguard their employees from accidents at work.

Whilst before 1st October 2013, there was effectively a strict liability imposed on employers in the event that a claim was brought under a statutory Health and Safety breach, the new Act now removes the rightto sue for such a potential breach.

This does not mean that claimants have no remedy for injury in such circumstances but cases will now see a greater emphasis on common law duties.  The pendulum has shifted and the onus will now be more upon the individual employee to demonstrate that his employer has failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent an accident.

Many claimant lawyers have voiced objection to the changes, claiming that the financial risks to injured persons after 1st October 2013 will increase.  On the opposite fence, it is submitted that such risk is still migrated by the insurance backed funding of personal injury claims and the less formal Personal Injury Rules applying to both Court of Session and Sheriff Court procedure.

It will be interesting to see how this new legislation impacts on claims generally over the next few years.  Inevitably, there are still one or two loopholes, particularly in respect of employees within the public sector, who do not appear to fall within the legislative wording.

Nonetheless, for the private sector employer, this change is to be welcomed and this will doubtless reduce scope for spurious claims. 

For more information on this, please contact Martin Sinclair.

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