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I had an Accident at Work – Is My Employer Liable?

The short answer to the question is that of course it depends on what kind of accident you had and why it occurred. The fact is that an employer is responsible in law for the safety of all employees whilst on company premises and/or carrying out work or training for the company.

Following the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974 employers have been obliged to ensure safe and hazard-free working conditions and could potentially face legal action from an employee injured as a result of a workplace accident. There are cases where an employer could still be held responsible even if a worker injured themselves through their own careless actions or behaviour if the employer’s negligent actions were considered to have contributed, or led, to the accident. However it is worth looking into exactly what your responsibilities are as an employee before rushing to lodge a claim against your employer.

Your Responsibilities as an Employee

Although an employer is legally bound to ensure health and safety regulations are strictly followed in the workplace – and out of it where necessary, on external training courses for example – workplace safety is an issue for all. Many workplace accidents are reported every year across the whole spectrum of industry but thankfully the accident statistics are falling. Some of these accidents will undoubtedly be as a result of faulty or non-existent attention to safe working practices but unfortunately a good many of them won’t be.

There are certain instances when an employee may have an accident and sustain injury through their own negligence. This means that if it can be proved that your accident occurred because of your disregard of health and safety rules, for instance, your employer may not be held fully responsible. Other instances in which an accident could be construed as being the fault of an employee rather than an employer include:

  • Where an employee wilfully indulges in substance abuse which impairs their judgement and affects their behaviour whether whilst at work or not
  • Where an employee partakes of alcohol so that it affects their behaviour and impairs their judgement
  • If they indulge in reckless behaviour that could put them and/or their work colleagues in danger
  • If they wilfully show disregard of or disobedience of health and safety rules and safe working procedures

Forklift trucks are one of the big causes of workplace injuries and anyone driving a forklift truck must be competent to do so and must have the relevant certificates. An employer should also ensure that the relevant caution and hazard signage is in place where forklifts and moving machinery are operating. An employer may be tempted to ask a worker to ‘do a one-off job’ with a forklift when a regular driver is unavailable. If you are asked to drive a forklift even though you are not qualified to do so and you then have an accident in which you are injured or you cause someone else to be injured then this could be a case where the employer is held liable. However if you are driving a forklift truck in a careless manner whether you are qualified or not, you and your employer may be legally liable.

Your Rights as an Employee

The health and safety of all workers in all forms of industry is of paramount importance and government and EU rulings have enshrined this in law. Workers also have a number of rights at work including the right to immediate medical attention when accidents occur and a right to claim compensation where possible. An employee has the right to object to working where there are avoidable hazards.

How to Prove Your Employer is Responsible for a Workplace Accident

According to a guide to an injury at work claim there are several instances where an employer could be proven liable for your accident by their negligence. They must prove that you have received all necessary training and safety equipment to allow you to do your job safely. In order to ensure that workplace accidents are avoided as much as possible an employer is also responsible for the implementation of regular risk assessments.

Employee Injury At Work Advice

Free Employee Injury At Work Claim Advice Click Here !

If your job entails manual handling procedures, in other words using physical strength to move things around or operate heavy machinery there are regulations covering this. Likewise, any task which entails working with hazardous chemicals is covered by separate legislation. So put simply, if it can be proved that your employer has failed to follow the correct procedures and regulations before allowing you to perform a task then they could be held liable if you have an accident and you could have a claim for compensation.

In conclusion, your employer can be held responsible for your accident if they have not taken proper steps to eliminate any possibility of danger, even if the accident was brought about by carelessness.

Your rights in work

As an employee, you and your job are covered under certain rights. These rights protect you from discrimination from your employer which in turn, gives you job security. In the uncertain times we face right now, being protected in your job by law helps to give you peace of mind and financial security.

Your workers’ rights cover a range of subjects such as how much you should be paid, the conditions you are expected to work in and how much time off you can expect. The law also covers other aspects such as maternity and paternity leave, sick pay and dismissal. Employers are required to oblige by your workers’ rights and you can begin court proceedings if you feel as though your workers’ rights have been abused or ignored.

Your basic rights as a worker

As soon as you enter into employment, you are covered by your basic right which are called statutory rights. While some of these rights have exceptions, these rights cover virtually every worker by law:

  • You have a right to be remunerated for your work at a rate of at least the minimum wage.
  • You must be given a payslip that is itemised showing your wage calculation and any relevant deductions.
  • Employers must not make any deductions that are illegal from your wages.
  • You are entitled to some paid holiday every year and also time off (paid) for antenatal care, adoption leave, antenatal care, paternity and maternity leave.
  • You should have a written statement outlining the main terms and conditions of your job within two months of starting.
  • You can not be discriminated against.
  • You are entitled to paid time off for activities involving your trade union or to study if you are 16 or 17.
  • Health and safety legislation demands you be given weekly and also daily breaks; you cannot be made to work greater than 48hours a week
  • If you have worked for over a month, you must be given notice if the business chooses to dismiss you
  • You can not be dismissed for being a “whistle blower”
  • If the company dismisses you whilst on maternity leave or while you are pregnant, you’re entitled to an explanation in writing
  • You have the right to have a trade union rep accompany you to any disciplinary or dismissal hearings
  • Part time workers are entitled to the same contracted rights as full-time employees in a role that is similar. However, holiday pay entitlement may be calculated on a pro-rata basis
  • Fixed term employees should have the same contracted rights as a permanent employee in a role that is similar

Additional statutory rights

Once you have been working for your employer for a period of time, you will become entitled to additional rights under law:

  • After 6 months of working under your employer you have the right to enter a request to work flexible hours
  • After a year of working for your employer you should become entitled to take parental leave (unpaid)
  • If you began your job prior to 6th April 2012, you are entitled to an explanation in writing should you be dismissed by your employer. You also have the right to submit a claim for compensation if it is found that your dismissal was unfair.

After two full years working for your employer you’ll gain the following rights:

  • You should be entitled to take time off (paid) to seek out another job if the business is making you redundant
  • Redundancy pay entitlement if made redundant

Contractual and pay rights

While your statutory rights are regulated by the law, you might have further rights and entitlements outlined in your employment contract. These rights will need to be agreed upon by yourself and your employer and included in your contract of employment. While your contractual right themselves are not protected by law, the law does dictate that your employer should not breach the terms of your employment contract or they can be found liable and you could seek compensation.

Most workers have the right to be paid minimum wage and these amounts vary depending on your age:

  • £6.95 for workers aged 21 or over.
  • £5.55 for workers aged from 18 – 20.
  • £4.00 for workers aged from 16 – 17.
  • £3.40 for apprentices who are in the first year of their apprenticeship or aged below 19.

Certain workers such as the self-employed, company directors, students on placement and members of the armed forces are not entitled under the law to be paid minimum wage but their employers may decide to pay them these amounts. Their pay structure will be outlined in their employment contracts.

Finding out more information about your rights

As an employee, it is good practice to be well informed of your rights within the workplace. There are plenty of sources of information regarding your statutory rights such as Citizens Advice Bureau or the website. Make sure that you fully read and understand your contractual rights before you sign it and bring up any issues with your employer in writing so that you have a paper copy of everything.