Safety in the Workplace Extended to Workers
The Employment Rights act 1996 (section 44) protects “employees” from being subjected to a detriment (a detriment means some action short of dismissal) by their employer in specific health and safety situations. These include:
· where an employee absents themselves from work due to a reasonable belief that attendance would put them in serious and imminent danger, or
· where an employee takes or proposes to take appropriate steps to protect themselves or others in the reasonable belief that there is a serious and imminent danger.
Dismissal in either of these situations will be automatically unfair. However, it’s not enough for an employee simply to say that they believed they were in serious and imminent danger. That belief must be reasonably held.
Until last year, cases under section 44 were rare but since the pandemic, they’re unsurprisingly likely to become much more common. What’s more, from 31st May this protection will be extended to “workers”.
This is another fast-evolving area of law. Cases will be determined on their unique set of facts, including a subjective consideration of whether the individual had a reasonable belief and an objective consideration of whether it was reasonable to hold that belief in the circumstances. The state of the pandemic at the time is also likely to be highly relevant. Employers will undoubtedly need to be able to show they’ve taken all reasonable measures possible (such as risk assessment, vaccination accessibility, etc.) to ensure a safe workplace.
As always, watch this space or get in touch if you’d like more information.
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