Personal Injury

Health at Work: Covid and Employers’ Liability

Estimated read time: 3 mins

Carrie Tennick, December 21, 2020

When you work for someone else – whether that’s a huge global corporation or just one individual – they have a duty to keep you safe and healthy when you’re carrying out your duties.

When they fail to, you usually have the legal ability to hold them responsible for whatever harm you may suffer.

This could be in the form of an injury you sustain in an accident at work or potentially an illness you develop as a result of your work.

Your right to safety

Employers have a legal duty to keep you safe. This is set out in more than one piece of legislation, including:

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 set out that employers have to ensure the health and safety of all employees as far as is reasonably practicable
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to assess risks to employee health and take action to address them

It means that if your health is affected at work, in certain situations you can hold your employer responsible. For example, if your employer has not ensured the lighting is appropriate in your workplace and you fall down the stairs because you couldn’t see properly, they could be liable.

Employers’ Liability and coronavirus

It’s not just accidents your employer should keep you safe from. With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we’re currently facing one of the worst health crises the world has ever seen. This means that your employer should be paying careful attention to what’s happening and what the regulations are to ensure your safety.

They should be doing all they can to ensure your chances of exposure to Covid-19 are as low as possible. They will need to adhere to the guidance provided by organisations such as the Health and Safety Executive and make sure they’re carrying out appropriate risk assessments to recognise and then minimise any threats to your health.

If it means installing screens between workstations and providing the necessary PPE, that should be introduced. If this means keeping you out of the workplace and letting you do your job from home, that’s what should happen.

Contracting Covid at work because of your employer’s negligence could mean that you’re able to make a claim against them. This kind of Employers’ Liability claim is still relatively new, so it may initially be more challenging to prove that being at work caused your illness.

Proving your case

When you make a coronavirus claim – or any other personal injury claim – you need to prove your case on the balance of probabilities. This means that in this situation, you need to show that being at work was more likely than not the reason you caught the virus.

For example, if you can show that a colleague tested positive for Covid, but you were still required to go into the office instead of being told to work from home, you could be able to show that you likely contracted the virus at work, rather than anywhere else.

Or if you expressed a concern that you didn’t have enough PPE to keep safe, but your employer didn’t act on that concern, you could be able to show that you caught the disease at work if that was the only place you’ve been where you might have been exposed.

If your employer has not made your workplace Covid-secure and they require you to be physically present, they could be held liable for you contracting the illness. And this means you could make a compensation claim against them.

For help with making an Employers’ Liability claim for an injury or illness caused by your work, you can talk to our friendly and understanding advisors for free. Just give us a call, request a call back or start your claim online.

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