What is the Duty of Care of Employers?
The duty of care for employers involves the obligation to make sure that their employees are kept safe and well as far as reasonably possible. This includes ensuring that their working environment is also safe.
Why is Duty of Care Important in the Workplace?
The duty of care owed by an employer is fundamental to the working relationship with the employees.
By implementing and honouring a duty of care to the employees this ensures there is a safe and healthy working environment. In turn this means that the employees are protected from harm and legal responsibilities are upheld.
A duty of care also helps facilitate trust between employers and employees, which after all is crucial for a successful and productive working relationship.
Not only that but a duty of care promotes working moral, encourages respect for the employee by showing the employer takes their responsibilities seriously and are acting within the confines of the law.
So what does an Employer’s Duty of Care Involve?
As indicated above an employer has a all-encompassing duty to provide a safe and healthy working environment for their employees thereby ensuring that the working environment:
- Is free from bullying and harassment;
- Provides clear guidance, support and instruction for staff on any health and safety issues;
- Protects staff from any unnecessary and foreseeable risks of injury;
- Does not involve employees working excessive hours.
Does your Employer have a Duty of Care towards You?
Under case law or common law employers have a duty of care to their employees and this is the position how ever small or large the company.
This duty extends to providing a safe and healthy work related environment, making sure all the workers have proper training to help them work safely and the necessary tools to do their job as well as implementing support for mental health and wellbeing.
This general duty of care cannot be delegated by the employer to another person, party or organisation.
This can be important when insurers try to sidestep a claim and point the finger at another party who they say is responsible in circumstances where this is not appropriate due to Common Law Rules.
Risk Assessment, Health Safety and Welfare….
Part of the duty of care which is owed to employees is to take reasonable steps to identify and address any potential hazards in the workplace.
If there is a serious risk of harm to the employee when carrying out a certain task then there is a corresponding higher duty of care to ensure the employee is safe. So a serious risk of injury results in a related obligation to invest to ensure any risk is minimised.
Once risk assessments have been carried out and implemented the employer needs to ensure any ongoing potential risks are monitored and managed appropriately.
Do Employees have a Duty of Care to other Employees?
Employees have a duty to ensure they take care of themselves, as well as their co-workers who could be put in harms way by their actions in work related situations.
The employees duty of care extends to co-operating with both the employer and other workers and taking heed of any instructions given to promote a safe working environment as well as complying with the necessary legal requirements.
Employees equally need to be aware of any potential dangers in the work place and to take action to reduce the risks involved.
What is Lack of Duty of Care?
In the leading case dealing with the common law duty of care is Donoghue V Stevenson where the basic principle was laid down:
“You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour.”
In other words, an employer’s duty of care involves a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent an obvious or unnecessary risk of injury from occurring.
Breach of Duty at Work
A breach of duty includes a failure on the part of the employer to ensure the health safety and welfare of employees and to ensure proper safety measures are in place.
For instance there health safety maybe compromised in circumstances where there is :
- a failure to provide any or any adequate warnings or advice in terms of potential risks;
- a failure to properly train or supervise activities;
- a failure to provide proper protective clothing or equipment so the task in question can be carried out safely and effectively;
- a failure to ensure that all work involving manual handling is avoided as far as reasonably practicable. (If manual handling cannot be avoided then the management staff must put in place suitable training and precautions to reduce any risk of injury.)
The Important Relationship between the Duty of Care and Causation
In order to bring a successful action it is necessary to show that not only has there been a lack of duty of care but also that this caused or resulted in the injury.
There is therefore an important and interconnected relationship between the duty of care and causation in order for claims to succeed.
On the one hand the employer’s duty of care involves a legal obligation to act reasonably so that foreseeable harm cannot result in injury. On the other there needs to be a direct link between the failure to comply with the duty of care and the resulting injury suffered.
If there is no causal relationship between the employer’s breach of the duty of care and the injuries sustained then the work claim is not going to be viable.
If on the other hand the work injury was foreseeable and it can be demonstrated that the breach of duty of care actually directly lead to the harm suffered then it will certainly be worth proceeding.
Duty of Care and Mental Health and Safety Risks
When it comes to mental health and psychological safety risk employers remain under a legal duty of care to instigate reasonable steps to protect the mental health and safety of their employers.
Again this legal duty extends to taking steps to identifying any potential risks to both physical and mental health and providing resources to support and protect employees from psychological harm.
Stress Claims and the Responsibilities and Duties of the Employer?
Workplace stress, bullying and harassment are all issues that can raise their head and it is for the company to ensure that they identify, assess and minimise any work related risk which could adversely effect employees mental health and safety.
Workplace stress can result in both physical and psychological symptoms which can be lead to serious long-term health issues to an employees wellbeing including anxiety or depression.
Work-related stress can arise from many reasons including:
- Failure to provide any proper training for the employment in question;
- Failure to ensure that the work given to the employee is manageable and not excessive and unrealistic;
- An overreliance on having to take work home because of unrealistic deadlines;
- Being subject during the course of employment to bullying, harassment, discrimination or victimisation;
- A management failure to safeguard the wellbeing of staff in the workplace;
Employers are encouraged to create a workplace that is supportive of mental health and facilitates open and honest conversations about mental health and stress.
Mental health has become increasingly important in the workplace and employers must be proactive to ensure a safe and healthy working in the work environment.
Can I Sue My Employer for a Lack of Duty of Care?
You may be able to sue your employer for lack of duty of care if you can demonstrate that your company breached health and safety standards in the working environment or for being responsible for failing to sufficiently protect you from harms way.
- If another employee or team member was working in the course of their employment and caused your injury as a result of their negligence then the employer can be held “vicariously liable” for the injuries.
- Depending on the details of what happened it follows you may well you may be able to lodge a personal injury claim against your company for negligence.
- Before going any further it’s important to note each claim turns on its own facts and bringing a claim against your needs careful thought and expert advice.
- You will need to demonstrate your employer was to blame for the accident either directly or indirectly. If there has been a breach of the duty of care by the business or another employee this is always a good starting point.
Before taking any action you should always look to speak with an experienced and qualified personal injury lawyer to discuss matters so that you can consider your options.
If you speak with a specialist accident at work solicitor then you will be able to obtain practical advice in relation to whether the duty of care towards you has been breached along with the merits of bringing an action and the prospects of success.
Your personal injury solicitor will also be able to give you advice that may help you to protect your position and give you the best chances of success against your organisation.
Risk Assessments and Duty of care
The Duty of care is the legal obligation to ensure that one person’s actions or lack of action do not cause harm to another staff member.
Employers have a duty of care to their employees to ensure their safety and wellbeing in the workplace.
This means employers must identify and reduce risk that could potentially cause harm to their employees. They should also provide health and safety information, training and instruction to their employees dealing with employee and workplace risk.
Risk assessments are carried out by employers to identify potential hazards in the workplace and assess the risk that they pose to employees. They are used to ensure that health and safety risks are reduced to an acceptable level.
For any business employing five or more people the management must create an official document to record the results of the risk assessment and any plans to deal with the risks highlighted in the work environment.
The law also requires the management to formulate a health and safety policy dealing with the ways in which health and safety is to be implemented and protected.
Clearly in the context of accident claims these formal documents assessing the risks can be very important to establish whether any risks which came about at the time of the accident had been foreseen.
It is also helpful to consult exactly what health and safety rules were in place to protect the injured party.
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