Business Secretary, Vince Cable presented the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill (’ERR Bill’) to Parliament in May 2012. The Bill is a central element in the Government’s aim for “strong, sustainable and balanced growth, powered by investment, exports, technology and enterprise.”
Subject to Parliamentary approval, the Bill is intended to cut the costs of doing business in Britain, boost consumer and business confidence and help the private sector create jobs by, among other things, simplifying regulation.
In October 2012 measures were announced to help cut unnecessary red tape and take steps to create the right conditions for businesses’ growth, including removing automatic liability on businesses for civil damages in health and safety cases, when they are not found negligent.
It has long been accepted that legislation protecting safety in the workplace gives rise to an action for breach of statutory duty. The position as to civil liability was put beyond doubt by section 47(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974; breach of a statutory duty is actionable and gives rise to a remedy.
The proposed amendment said that “breach of duty…shall not be actionable except to the extent that regulations under this section so provide.”
This would have radically altered the law relating to health and safety at work and people’s right to compensation for injury. The whole purpose of health and safety rules and regulations is to protect the health and safety of workers. They should be entitled to compensation when their employer or somebody who owes them a duty under a regulation falls below the standard required by that rule.
In light of opposition to this proposal, in December 2012, the Government laid an amendment removing the proposed power enabling the Secretary of State to make regulations to change the extent to which other health and safety legislation actionable in civil law.
Whilst this is good news for victims of accidents in the workplace, the issue may be looked at again some time in the future as the Government continues with its mission to reduce the ‘red tape’ burden on employers.
Author: Lee Hart