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Kerry Eastman

HR Advisor - Uckfield

1st June 2021

Legislative Updates: Health & Safety Protection Extended to Workers

Health & Safety Protection Extended to Workers

As a result of new legislation, Health and Safety Protection has now been extended to Workers. What is this change and why might it be important to you?

The Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996) currently protects employees from being subjected to detrimental treatment in connection with health and safety matters. For example, Section 44(d) ERA 1996 protects employees who leave or refuse to attend work because their place of work presents a serious or imminent risk of danger.

Similarly, employees are, by Section 44(e) ERA 1996, protected if they take steps to protect themselves when they reasonably believe they are at serious or imminent risk of danger.

In November 2020 however, the High Court handed down a judgment, following a judicial review brought by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), in which it ruled that the UK Government had failed to provide workers with protection they were entitled to under EU law, including the right to cease work and/or refuse to return to work in response to an imminent and serious danger.

The High Court ruled that the Government had not interpreted EU law widely enough and that, as such, steps had to be taken immediately to ensure workers have the same protection from health and safety detriment as employees.

In light of the above, the Government laid the Employment Rights Act 1996 (Protection from Detriment in Health and Safety Cases) (Amendment) Order 2021 before Parliament in March 2021 with a view to extending the rights referred to above to workers from 31 May 2021.

What does this mean for employers?

While claims of this type were not terribly common pre-COVID, their prevalence has increased as a result of the pandemic. The extension of the protection to workers could increase such cases even further particularly as the Government eases restrictions and staff return to the workplace.

How can we help?

For more information in connection with Covid-19, returning to the workplace and implementing secure workplace practices, please contact Victoria Regan or Amy White in Rix & Kay’s Employment Team.

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