Post-it note on keyboard reading Health and Safety at Work

17/03/2021

The regulations around health and safety detriment have been thrown into the spotlight due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Prior to this they were tucked away in section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and rarely used.

However, Covid has caused increased numbers of the working population to feel anxious about travelling to work or carrying out their work duties. In health and safety terms, they believe that being in the workplace would put them in serious danger.

The health and safety detriment means that if an employee is penalised as a result of any reasonable action they take related to health and safety, they can make a tribunal claim. This protection applies regardless of the employee’s length of service.

Important changes are being made to the health and safety detriment regulations, however, which will extend the provision further.

As it stands at the moment the protection offered only applies to ‘employees’, however, if approved, it will be extended to apply to all ‘workers’.

This means that you don’t have to have an employment contract with the employer to bring a health and safety detriment claim. You could, for example, be a contractor or a casual worker.

This extension to the regulations is likely to be approved and will apply to any detriments that take place on or after 31 May 2021.

This is an interesting area and we will monitor closely what tribunals consider is a ‘serious and imminent danger’ (which is the terminology used in section 44).

At the moment we don’t have cases to rely on for guidance, so it’s not yet clear what sorts of incidents will be considered a danger or what would constitute detriment, especially given that rules around lockdown, closures and social distancing having changed several times since the pandemic began.

For now, employers must be mindful of this provision (as they always should have been) as Covid continues to bring up new issues and challenges.

If you are an employer who needs legal advice about health and safety detriment, call us on 01782 205000 or email enquiry@beswicks.com. If you are an employee who needs advice about your situation, we offer a one-hour fixed fee appointment with an employment solicitor for £100+vat.