Under UK law, you have a right to work in a safe and healthy environment. If you have suffered an injury as a result of an accident at work and you believe someone else was to blame, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact specialist personal injury solicitors at Slater and Gordon Lawyers for an initial consultation about your case on freephone 0800 916 9046 or complete our online contact form.
To give you a clearer idea of accident at work laws in the UK, here are some facts that all employees should know.
What is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974?
The primary piece of legislation governing health and safety at work is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Along with local authorities, the Health and Safety Executive is responsible for enforcing this Act.
What are my employer’s health and safety responsibilities?
As an employee, you’re legally entitled to work in a safe environment. This means your employer has to meet certain responsibilities. The most important of these include:
- Conducting risk assessments to determine what could harm you in your role and to identify suitable precautions to mitigate these dangers
- Explaining to you in a way you can easily understand how risks are controlled, and who is responsible for this
- Providing you with all the relevant health and safety training you need to do your job
- Consulting with you and your health and safety representatives on the issue of how to reduce risk
- Providing you with any necessary personal protective equipment free of charge, and ensure it is looked after (this equipment could include certain items of clothing or footwear, gloves, masks and eye and ear protection)
- Providing suitable first aid facilities
- Providing washing facilities, toilets and drinking water
- Reporting accidents and injuries at work
- Having insurance in place that offers protection in case you get ill or injured through your work (they must also display a copy of their current insurance certificate where you can easily see it)
- Offering health checks if you’re in danger of ill-health as a result of your job
- Offering regular health checks if you work nights, as well as a health check before you start working nights
If you believe you are in immediate and serious danger at work, you have the right to protect yourself - and this could mean leaving work until the risk is addressed.
What are my health and safety responsibilities?
As well as rights, you have certain responsibilities when it comes to protecting your wellbeing at work. For example, you must:
- Follow the training you have received when using any items you have been given at work
- Take reasonable care of your own health and safety, as well as that of others
- Co-operate with your employer over matters concerning health and safety
- Inform your supervisor, employer or a health and safety representative if you think insufficient safety precautions are putting anyone’s wellbeing at serious risk
- Report any injuries or illnesses you suffer as a result of performing your role
- Tell your employer if something happens that may impact on your ability to do your job safely (for example, if you suffer an injury or medical problem)
Also, if you drive or operate machinery, you must tell your employer if you take medication that has the potential to make you feel drowsy.
What if I am self-employed?
If you’re self-employed, you have a responsibility to look after your own health and safety. For example, you have to provide your own training, first aid arrangements, health checks, personal protective equipment and so on.
However, bear in mind that businesses sometimes refer to workers as ‘self-employed’ when in fact under the law they are viewed as employees. If you’re not sure about your employment status, you can contact our employment law solicitors for information and advice.
What should I do if my employer won’t listen to my safety concerns?
If you raise safety concerns with your employer and they refuse to take action, you should contact the Health and Safety Executive or your local enforcing authority. Being proactive in this way could help to prevent accidents that harm you or your colleagues. Bear in mind that your employer can’t discipline you for taking this step.
Why should I report accidents at work?
All injuries at work, even minor ones, should be noted in your employer’s accident book. The vast majority of businesses, with the exception of very small companies, are required by law to keep one of these books.
Reporting your accident will ensure you have a record of what happened if you need to take time off, or if you decide to make a personal injury compensation claim at a later stage. It will also help your employer to build an accurate picture of the risks that exist in your workplace. If they can see what is going wrong in terms of safety, your employer is in a stronger position to prevent accidents from happening in the future.
If you’re unable to report the accident yourself because you’re seriously injured or ill, ask one of your colleagues to do this for you.
Should I visit the doctor?
Obviously if your injury is serious enough, you’ll need to visit your doctor or go to hospital. However, it’s also worth getting checked out by your doctor even if your injury seems minor. They’ll make a note of the medical facts of your accident, and this could prove to be important in the future if you decide to pursue a workplace accident claim.
Can I get sick pay after an accident at work?
If you suffer a serious injury, you may need to take days, weeks or potentially even months off work. This can be a very stressful and worrying time. As well as having to deal with your pain and trauma, you might be concerned about the financial implications of taking time off.
It’s important to note that if you’re an employee and need time off because of injury, you may be entitled to statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks. This applies even if you work on a zero hour’s contract. To be eligible for statutory sick pay, you must:
- Earn an average of at least £113 a week (pre-tax)
- Be off sick for at least four full days in a row
- Follow your employer’s rules concerning how to get sick pay (for example, in terms of how you certify your illness or injury).
Your employer may offer you contractual sick pay (sometimes called company sick pay) instead of statutory sick pay. Contractual sick pay schemes vary between employers, but they must pay at least as much as the rate you would receive on statutory sick pay. You can find out whether you have rights to company sick pay by reading your employment contract.
In most cases, the amount of sick pay you receive isn’t affected by the cause of your illness or injury. However, some employers have special schemes set up for workplace injuries. You can check your contract or speak to your employer to see if this may apply to you.
Can I claim compensation?
Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may be able to claim compensation from your employer. In order to be eligible to do this, you must be able to prove that your employer did not meet their responsibility to provide you with a safe working environment. Specifically, you must be able to show that they failed in their duty to reduce or remove a hazard that resulted in your accident. In addition, you must ensure that you start your claim within three years of the date of the accident.
If the court finds that your employer could have taken reasonable measures to stop your accident from happening, they may award you compensation. Or, if your employer accepts responsibility for your accident, they may offer to settle your claim out of court.
The amount of compensation you are able to claim will depend on a number of factors, including the nature of your accident and how serious your injuries are. Compensation can also cover the following:
- Any loss of income you have incurred as a result of the accident, including future losses
- Damage to personal possessions
- Accommodation and travel costs associated with your accident and recovery
- Medical expenses
- The costs of support or care you need to recover from or live with your injuries
- Adaptations made to your car or home
- Changes to your ability to work in future
The amount of compensation you receive may be reduced if you’re found to be partly responsible for the accident, or for the severity of its consequences.
Making an accident at work compensation claim can be a complicated process, so it’s best to seek expert help from a solicitor who has considerable knowledge and skill in this area of law.
What if my employer is in financial difficulty?
Don’t be put off making a claim if your employer is experiencing financial difficulties. Any payment you receive should be covered by your employer’s insurance. By law, nearly all businesses are required to have employers’ liability insurance which will cover the cost of any successful claim.
Can my employer fire me for making a claim?
Your employer is not legally permitted to fire you or to treat you differently if you decide to make a compensation claim. If they do treat you unfairly because you take this step, they’ll be breaking the law. If they dismiss you, you may have a case for unfair dismissal, meaning you could take further legal action.
Why choose Slater and Gordon?
Slater and Gordon Lawyers understand that suffering an injury at work can be painful and traumatic, and it may impact on your finances. Our personal injury solicitors provide a sensitive and professional service that can help you to claim the compensation you deserve. We offer immediate legal representation and rehabilitation following accidents.
We’ll ask you about the details of your accident and about any injuries you suffered as a result. We’ll also ask for any additional details you may be able to provide, such as if there were any witnesses to the incident and whether you received any medical treatment.
Our experts specialise in work accident claims and will review your case to assess how likely it is that your claim will be successful.
We don’t believe that concerns over money should stop people from pursuing a claim. If you come to us for help following an accident at work, you won’t need to risk your personal finances in order to pursue a claim. The vast majority of our personal injury claims (98%) are funded through a No Win, No Fee system, meaning you will only pay a fee if your claim succeeds. This can take the anxiety out of the process and enable you to pursue justice in confidence.
For a consultation, call us on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll call you when it’s convenient.
Many solicitors at Slater and Gordon Lawyers are members of the Pan European Organisation of Personal Injury Lawyers (PEOPIL), the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and the Law Society Personal Injury Panel, so you can trust that you’re in safe hands.
We’re one of the UK’s largest personal injury law firms and have offices across the UK in locations including Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Sheffield.