Relatives of people killed at work face an uphill struggle for justice after Government reforms, say lawyers on Workers’ Memorial Day today (28 April).
“On this day of all days, we should stop to reflect that 107 lives were lost in British workplaces between April and December last year* - one death is one too many.Everyone has a right to go to work and return home unharmed,” said Matthew Stockwell, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).
“During that time the law on making a claim for an injury or death changed in favour of employers – the very people responsible for ensuring safety at work” he explained “Employers have always had the upper hand in legal challenges as they control the workplace and hold all the information. Their advantage is even greater when the main witness, the employee, can’t give his own version of events because he has been killed”.
Bereaved families or injured people used to be able to rely on the fact that an employer had breached health and safety regulations if they wanted to bring a case. The Government has now turned the clock back to the Victoria era, in favour of employers, by changing the law through the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act to require the claimant to prove the employer was negligent, which is much more difficult.
Mr Stockwell explained “For example if some protective equipment was faulty, the family of the deceased now have to prove that the employer knew about it. Proving how much someone else knows is certainly far more difficult than proving the fact that regulations put in place to protect that worker have been breached”.
“Losing someone you love is tough enough, without having to face a gruelling struggle to hold the responsible employer to account. Many people won’t even try,despite having every right to,” said Mr Stockwell. “When someone doesn’t return home from work because his employer failed to keep him safe from harm, his family should not have to battle through bereavement for justice”.