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Government removes strict liability for breach of statutory duty

Government removes strict liability for breach of statutory duty

The Löfstedt report published in November 2011 identified that health and safety regulations imposed strict liability on employers, making them liable for injuries suffered by their employees at work, regardless of the extent to which the employer in question had sought to comply with its health and safety duties and whether it had taken all reasonable steps to protect its employees from harm.  It was felt that this regulatory burden was unnecessarily contributing to the number of civil claims and the “compensation culture”. The report recommended a review of existing legislation.

The Government’s adopted its preferred approach, which was to amend the part of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (“HSWA”) 1974 that imposed civil liability for breach of the statutory duties relating to health and safety regulations and remove strict liability for employers for civil claims - except in cases where they have been negligent.

Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (“ERR”) Act 2013 amended the existing section 47 of the HSWA 1974 such that a breach of those statutory health and safety provisions which impose strict liability on employers would not allow an employee to bring a civil claim, unless the right is specifically provided for in the legislation.  This would have the effect of limiting the opportunity of employees taking a civil action for breach of statutory duty and require them to prove a case by showing negligence of the employer. This, it was felt, would address the perceived unfairness that responsible and safety-conscious employers were being held to a duty that was higher than the common law duty of care and would in turn influence the “compensation culture”.

Importantly, a commencement date for section 69 of the ERR Act 2013 is still awaited.

To study the wording of Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (“ERR”) Act 2013 follow the link.

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2013/24/section/69/enacted

Further information and observations of one legal practice is available by following the link.

http://www.freshlawblog.com/2013/06/12/enterprise-and-regulatory-reform-act-2013-reverses-previous-burden-of-proof-for-strict-liability-health-and-safety-offences/