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Employer's Duty of Care

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 11 May 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Duty Of Care Employer Health And Safety

Every UK employer has a duty of care. This is critical to the health, safety and general welfare of all employees. Not all employers are aware of the implications of the duty of care. But it doesn’t matter how small a business happens to be. Where there’s a member of staff, there’s a duty of care responsibility.

Starting Point

The starting point for an employer is to have a person who deals with health and safety matters. This person must be legally ‘competent’. In other words, he or she should be an adult with the ability to understand Health and Safety Issues.

A medium-sized or large organisation may have a trained member of staff who acts as the competent person. In a small concern, it is likely that an owner or director will take on the role.

Risk Assessment

When it comes to duty of care, the primary job of the competent person is to conduct a Risk Assessment. This must identify the health and safety risks each employee faces at work.

The outcome of the risk assessment may vary according to the size of an organisation. If it has five or more employees, the competent person has to keep a record of the assessment’s results.

The employer of such an organisation must arrange for a plan that addresses all the identified risks. He or she must also create a health and safety policy. This policy should mention the provisions that protect employee health and safety.

Furthermore, the employer must ensure each employee knows about the policy and the provisions.

Legal Position

Generally speaking, duty of care comes into force when a person or group of people do something that might reasonably harm somebody. This harm may be in the form of mental or physical injury. It’s also possible that the harm could be financial.

In the context of work, duty of care is legally binding on an employer. Put simply, an employer must abide by what the law refers to as a standard of reasonable care. The standard of reasonable care applies to a work-related matter that could injure someone. This is why a risk assessment to identify such issues is vital.

An employer may neglect this duty of care. If so, and if a problem arises, an affected employee may be able to proceed with a claim of Negligence.

Test

In 1990, the House of Lords made a judgement in Caparo Industries plc v Dickman. This judgement established a test for duty of care that has three parts. The first part relates to any harm an employee suffers. This harm must occur as a result of the action or inaction of the employer. The employer must also have been able to reasonably foresee the harm.

The second part deals with the relationship between a claimant and defendant in a duty of care legal case. The House of Lords judgement states there must be proximity in this relationship. In other words, there must be a relationship such as that between an employer and employee.

The third part concerns liability. In the eyes of the law, there should be fair, just and reasonable cause to impose a duty of care liability on an employer.

As with any legal matter, however, an employee concerned about duty of care should seek detailed advice.

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[Add a Comment]
Tiff - Your Question:
My partner is a baggage handler and in March he injured his shoulder on his last day in loading bags. On his day off he went to a chiropractor who saw him twice during that week. My partner was is so much pain he ended up not going in for his first day back. On his return he filled in his sick form but stated he still wasn't 100% and still in pain. This was accepted however there was no duty of care to see how they could help him or offer any light duties. His injury has now been aggravated due to the heavy tasks given to him and our gp has said he has damaged the bone and will require a scan and steroid injections. He has also been given a letter for light duties however his DM has said if he cant lift bags don't bother coming in. We know other colleagues have been given light duties in the past. Where do we go with this as he doesn't get paid for being on sick? Thank you

Our Response:
If no light duties are available he has not choice but to stay off. He should be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay - see our guide here
SafeWorkers - 12-May-17 @ 12:44 PM
I have worked as a staff nurse in a hospital for 16 years. I have also suffered with depression for about 30 years which until recently, has never interfered with my job. A year ago, I was told to take charge of an unfamiliar ward, I'd never worked there before, I didn't know the ward layout, how to find drugs in an emergency, many of the patients conditions and illnesses were unfamiliar to me. I felt this was very unsafe not just for me, but for the patients too. That night, I had a nervous breakdown and ended up seeing the crisis team in A&E, I felt suicidal because of the pressure and stress piled on me, and the lack of support from management. I was off sick for 2 months and saw occupational health who recommended I was not made to take charge on other wards for 8 weeks. After this, I had occasions where I was told to take charge, I explained that I didn't feel competent to, and I felt it was unsafe for patients, but I was threatened with disciplinary action and a senior manager rang me at work and basically said it was my responsibility to staff the other ward. I broke down in tears and ended up going off sick again. I am now back at work but live with the constant stress that I will be forced to take charge of an unfamiliar ward,putting my PIN at risk, and the health of the patients in that ward. Where is my employers duty of care towards myself and the patients.
Tog - 11-May-17 @ 9:33 AM
My partner is a baggage handler and in March he injured his shoulder on his last day in loading bags. On his day off he went to a chiropractor who saw him twice during that week. My partner was is so much pain he ended up not going in for his first day back. On his return he filled in his sick form but stated he still wasn't 100% and still in pain. This was accepted however there was no duty of care to see how they could help him or offer any light duties. His injury has now been aggravated due to the heavy tasks given to himand our gp has said he has damaged the bone and will require a scan and steroid injections. He has also been given a letter for light duties however his DM has said if he cant lift bags don't bother coming in. We know other colleagues have been given light duties in the past. Where do we go with this as he doesn't get paid for being on sick? Thank you
Tiff - 11-May-17 @ 8:53 AM
Sara7105- Your Question:
I started work in a care home through a agency 6 months ago.but now work for the home since Feb 20th. I'm currently on my 3 months probation. I had 2days off 1 12 HR shift (contracted hrs) and 1 6 HR overtime shift with a throat infection. I've had to come home early today with a stabbing pain in my side. The weekend duty doctor told me to see my gp first thing but I'm ment to be working 8 till 8 again tomorrow and I'm scared I'll get sacked for having it off?

Our Response:
We can't say whether you will or not, this depends on your employer's sickness absenteeism policy.
SafeWorkers - 28-Mar-17 @ 11:23 AM
I started work in a care home through a agency 6 months ago..but now work for the home since Feb 20th.I'm currently on my 3 months probation.I had 2days off 1 12 HR shift (contracted hrs)and 1 6 HR overtime shift with a throat infection. I've had to come home early today with a stabbing pain in my side.The weekend duty doctor told me to see my gp first thing but I'm ment to be working 8 till 8 again tomorrow and I'm scared I'll get sacked for having it off?
Sara7105 - 26-Mar-17 @ 10:36 PM
Amber - Your Question:
I work in a residential home as a carer, the new manager has taken in a lot of new residents, those that have complex needs and have challenging behaviours, none of the carers are trained in how to handle these new residents. Today one of these residents got very aggressive towards me and pushed me against the corridor wall and punched me in the back, this was witnessed by another worker in the home. I reported this to my deputy manager and said I wasn't prepared to work with this resident, I was told I had to as we have a duty of care, my reply was that there should also be a duty of care for the employees as his behaviour has been aggressive and very challenging to other carers, can you please tell me where I stand Thank you

Our Response:
You should ask to see the risk assessment, so you can look at whether this risk has been acknowledged and what risk reduction measure have been put in place. If your not happy, you should speak with your employer...ask your manager to pass this on to the employer or more senior management etc. If nothing is done and you feel you have a genuine risk, you may have to make a claim for negligence etc. ACAS will be able to advise you if it gets to that stage.
SafeWorkers - 22-Mar-17 @ 2:19 PM
I worked for a company for 23 years. The company were aware I suffered from Narcolepsy, a neurological condition. The company transferred me under TUPE when selling a part of the company that I did not work directly in. I believe the reason was my performance was effected and also due to my service I had become expensive for the job I did. By accepting the transferred I signed away about 70% of my DB pension rights when I needed to apply for ill health early retirement. I believe that the company were at fault for not explaining this to me as they were aware of the disability and I believe the pension Trustees are at fault for not advising the company that their action would create financial hardship. Have I got a case and if so is it time limited?
Feeeedooo - 20-Mar-17 @ 5:59 PM
I work in a residential home as a carer, the new manager has taken in a lot of new residents, those that have complex needs and have challenging behaviours, none of the carers are trained in how to handle these new residents. Today one of these residents got very aggressive towards me and pushed me against the corridor wall and punched me in the back, this was witnessed by another worker in the home. I reported this to my deputy manager and said I wasn't prepared to work with this resident, I was told I had to as we have a duty of care, my reply was that there should also be a duty of care for the employees as his behaviour has been aggressive and very challenging to other carers, can you please tell me where I stand Thank you
Amber - 19-Mar-17 @ 9:19 PM
I work in a car manufacturing plant. I have spent the last 6 years on the production line with no problems. However the bosses now want me to climb in and out of the cars which I have informed them I can't do due to tendinitis and arthritis in my knee. I've had an amended duties note from my doctor over ruled by occupational health in work. My question is does my employer have a legal responsibility to find me a job I can do now they know I have problems with my knee?
Yozz - 9-Feb-17 @ 9:25 AM
I am left to lock up on my own at nightbetween 6-7 the area I work is now becoming not nice, drunks, young gangs, even a srabbing. Do I have a right to refuse to so? However I have been doing it for years, but never felt unsafe like I do now.
Alley - 30-Jan-17 @ 10:21 PM
Alf - Your Question:
I recently had a heart attack whilst at work contacted my employer straight away that I was having server chest pains an was told someone was coming out to me straight away, I was 10-15 minutes away from my place of empoyment but took over an hour and half before anyone came to me. I was then taken back to work and was allowed home but had to drive myself which is a 15 minute journey whilst suffering from cheats pains, I finally made it to my gp who did an ecg and determined I was having a heart attack and was taken to hospital were within an hour was in the operating theatre having two stents put in my heart. After spending 3days in hospital was released but told need another stent putting in once swelling and brushing gone down, my employer said not paying me as it's not a serious condition in there eyes which as put my recovery back because of stress, not to mention the financial stain it's put me under as well as the the fines I received due to not being able to pay my bills and pay for my heating electric n not been able to pay to eat! Can anyone help as to what I can do legally and where I stand!

Our Response:
Raise a formal complaint with your employer. Your GP and medical consultant at the hospital should be able to provide (and your employer) with evidence of the severity.
SafeWorkers - 21-Dec-16 @ 12:33 PM
I recently had a heart attack whilst at work contacted my employer straight away that I was having server chest pains an was told someone was coming out to me straight away, I was 10-15 minutes away from my place of empoyment but took over an hour and half before anyone came to me. I was then taken back to work and was allowed home but had to drive myself which is a 15 minute journey whilst suffering from cheats pains, I finally made it to my gp who did an ecg and determined I was having a heart attack and was taken to hospital were within an hour was in the operating theatre having two stents put in my heart. After spending 3days in hospital was released but told need another stent putting in once swelling and brushing gone down, my employer said not paying me as it's not a serious condition in there eyes which as put my recovery back because of stress, not to mention the financial stain it's put me under as well as the the fines I received due to not being able to pay my bills and pay for my heating electric n not been able to pay to eat! Can anyone help as to what I can do legally and where I stand!
Alf - 20-Dec-16 @ 3:50 PM
Due to my former employers carelessness I was exposed to a dangerous chemical that has left me with occupational asthma. The major airline I used to work for responded by denying that the incident occured although my GP and the HSE are certainly have different views. I have tried to claim against them but my union provided solicitors have been worse than useless, believing every lie told to them. I decided to find my own legal representative and asked my former solicitor for all his files relating to the case. I received them today and was horrified to find that my statement on the accident report has been altered to make it seem that I was suffering from a separate illness. In my experience of working for them I've witnessed lies, bullying, , discrimination and an appallingly dangerous attitude to safety but even I was shocked that they would stoop so low as to alter an accident report to divert blame from themselves. Is this a criminal offence? Where do I take it from here?
BillD - 15-Dec-16 @ 11:36 PM
Chef - Your Question:
I work in a kitchen I don't finish some nights till 11 it my last bus is at 10:30 I'm a young girl and have to walk through a dark park to get home! dose my employer have a duty of care to get me home?

Our Response:
No, your employer has a duty of care while you're in work. Unless your contract states that the job is daytime only and your employer has changed your hours subsequently then getting home is your own responsibility.
SafeWorkers - 15-Dec-16 @ 11:12 AM
I work in a kitchen I don't finish some nights till 11 it my last bus is at 10:30 I'm a young girl and have to walk through a dark park to get home! dose my employer have a duty of care to get me home?
Chef - 14-Dec-16 @ 9:17 AM
I got osteoarthritis in back and. Ankles feet Neen working 10 years army. Employment in on 25 mg. Fantastic patchmorphine I work on deli serving and slicing meat. I had risk assessment. And was moved. Dept as it was. Becoming hard. For mealso using slicer in morphine. Bad.So agreed. Should be moved told can't use slicer ect do delivery'sand. Bend into counter to servenow. Being told by manager. Got. To go back on deli againstrisk assessment that. Personal. Haveagreed. How do I stand
Penny - 25-Nov-16 @ 11:03 PM
was clinically depressed, stole alcohol from work and drank it there. other staff had gone to managers concerned over me. they did nothing and left me to work on a dangerous section. if they had sent me home none of this wouid have happened
troublesome - 14-Nov-16 @ 2:05 PM
shop worker - Your Question:
I'm a low level worker in a shop. On a few occasions within a few weeks a new young duty-manager didn't make it to work to open the shop. I went to work, but couldn't get in or do my shift. I just went home, and didn't make a fuss about it, asking for an apology or pay. However, now they are disciplining me for not reporting the shop being closed. Do they have a right to partly apportion blame onto me?

Our Response:
Well probably unless you had no contacts for anyone else?
SafeWorkers - 9-Nov-16 @ 10:50 AM
I'm a low level worker in a shop. On a few occasions within a few weeks a new young duty-manager didn't make it to work to open the shop. I went to work, but couldn't get in or do my shift. I just went home, and didn't make a fuss about it, asking for an apology or pay. However, now they are disciplining me for not reporting the shop being closed. Do they have a right to partly apportion blame onto me?
shop worker - 8-Nov-16 @ 8:29 AM
In the office where I work space is a bit cramped, but my supervisor is allowing other collegues to bring in document trolleys for their convenience. Thing is these trolleys are blocking comfortable access to document shelving and I recently injured my back trying to reach pasy the trolley. My supervisor is not interested, but the company (big health organisation) occupational health officer stated the situation was poor and would recommend to the managers in charge to rectify the situation. She did however say that she can only recommend; that if managers refuse to do anything then best advice was for me to seek a better position elsewhere!Is there a better solution available than me having to change my job? What about employer's duty of care in the workplace? I just feel there is general apathy with all local representives.... Please advise.. Thanks.
Dee - 7-Nov-16 @ 3:41 PM
Hello, My friend is a carer and has just been placed on a new placement.She used to visit vulnerable adults and her new placement means she has to visit drug addicts and alcoholics.The area in which she must visit is very rough and it will be dark.She is so frightened and cant tell her boss she's not comfortable doing it as she is waiting for a reference.She has received no conflict management TRAINING. Where does she stand with this? Thanks
klee - 4-Nov-16 @ 10:21 AM
Stu79 - Your Question:
My company pays a bonus scheme (every 3 months) that is performance related. Whilst I agree that it is a verbal agreement I have just been told 6 days before I'm about to be paid it that they have decided not too. All targets well exceeded and smashed. They tried this ploy a year ago and I put in a grievance arguing that I need to budget my finances and it was wrong what they have done. They have now done the same but refuse to pay. My argument is as an employer they have a duty of care to advise me well in advance especially as I had raised this issue previously and has totally thrown my finances out as otherwise I would have budgeted?

Our Response:
Does it form part of your contract? If it doesn't there's not a great deal you can do about it unless you have been specifically told that the bonus is payable every three months on achievement of targets etc. The only other possibility is if this bonushas been paid regularly for the past 10 years or so, then you might try and employ the "custom and practice" argument but you would need to ask an employment law specialist to take a closer look for you.
SafeWorkers - 7-Oct-16 @ 12:17 PM
My company pays a bonus scheme (every 3 months) that is performance related. Whilst I agree that it is a verbal agreement I have just been told 6 days before I'm about to be paid it that they have decided not too. All targets well exceeded and smashed. They tried this ploy a year ago and I put in a grievance arguing that I need to budget my finances and it was wrong what they have done. They have now done the same but refuse to pay. My argument is as an employer they have a duty of care to advise me well in advance especially as I had raised this issue previously and has totally thrown my finances out as otherwise I would have budgeted?
Stu79 - 6-Oct-16 @ 7:37 AM
Could you tell me if duty of care also covers somebody who has had a heart attack. I would like to know that if a company is putting extra stress onto you with no consideration to your overall health and precious medical conditions ? Is their duty of care to avoid unnecessary stress ????
Lew - 27-Sep-16 @ 6:34 PM
End of my tether- Your Question:
I had an accident at work back in November where I popped my knee while moving breeze blocks on a building site. When it happened I went to the hospital for an X-Ray and was told to get plenty of rest and keep the leg elevated. After being off for 2 days I was pressured back to work and out on light duties. I was promised physiotherapy also. As time has gone on with me limping I am now getting hip and back problems and the quad muscle has totally deteriorated. I still have had no Physio after all this time and now they are telling me that they may have to get rid of me as they are running out of work. I tried them that the main priority should be getting me back to full health so that if work does dry up I can then go and get another job.

Our Response:
Could your GP not arrange for physio outside of work if it's not been made available by your employer? If you're unable to carry out your normal duties your employer should provide you with lighter duties if they're available. If lighter duties are not available then you can be dismissed. You might want to seek legal advice regarding compensation if you feel your employer was somehow to blame for the initial injury.
SafeWorkers - 8-Sep-16 @ 12:45 PM
I had an accident at work back in November where I popped my knee while moving breeze blocks on a building site.When it happened I went to the hospital for an X-Ray and was told to get plenty of rest and keep the leg elevated.After being off for 2 days I was pressured back to work and out on light duties.I was promised physiotherapy also.As time has gone on with me limping I am now getting hip and back problems and the quad muscle has totally deteriorated.I still have had no Physio after all this time and now they are telling me that they may have to get rid of me as they are running out of work.I tried them that the main priority should be getting me back to full health so that if work does dry up I can then go and get another job.
End of my tether - 7-Sep-16 @ 2:29 PM
I am 3months into my 6month Probationary period, I'm experiencing difficulties with my Line Manager. After 6 days of sickness absence and 1week with a Doctor's Medical Certificate, my manager is harassing me that I'm not like the girl who did the job before me, I should be more like her, I'm too quiet, I should be louder and shout across the office to other people because they can't hear me. She has told me on a number of occasions that she feels I'm not strong enough to take on anymore training, although I am ready and have told her I would like to do all training involved in the job as I wish to fulfill my potential in the job role. She is very reluctant to help me, making me feel worthless and stressed out about my job. I have a formal Probationary Review with the company director now due to this and I'm worried about them terminating my contract. Can I put forward my concerns and tell her about the harassing and bullying from my Line manager?
Angel - 30-Aug-16 @ 10:32 PM
I work in mental health and in January I was assaulted by a patient who spat in my face which penetrated my left about 10 days after the assault I started to get symptoms of itchy eye watering stinging as the months have progressed I have got blurring of vision and sensitivity to light and headaches after the assault I was not sent to A and Enor was I referred to occupational health in fact employers did not do anything until I started to go to hospital and for eye tests also there was no eyebaths in place and which were only ordered after the event I'm told by my employer I need to prove my symptoms are a result of the injury despite me never having eye problems before and that a solicitor has said I need to show evidence that the patient had spat at staff prior to spitting at me surely that is a solicitors job if he is acting for me I feel my employer is going to get away with these breaches untouched and staff can go to work and get injured and there is no consequences breach of health and safety duty of care
Billybobdog - 19-Aug-16 @ 9:18 PM
I have a zero hour contract and my employer told me after falling off a ladder that she didn't have insurance for any of her employees. Is this correct, or should she have employees insurance.. She says that she has public liability insurance but it doesn't cover things like contents of a freezer melting due to an employees error. Is this correct or does it depend on the terms and conditions of her policy. Thank you
Lyn - 17-Aug-16 @ 2:40 PM
David - Your Question:
Can you tell me what sort of "duty of care" a delivery company has for its couriers,who are classed as self employed. I ask because many parcels are large and awkward making them very difficult to get in and out of the car boot.recently there was a large item which weighed about 15kg which caused neck and back pain. Should an accident report be filled in? Can I for a copy of their risk assessment?ThanksDavid

Our Response:
An employer has a duty to ensure that a contractor they choose to do a job,can do the job safely and without risks to health.
SafeWorkers - 8-Aug-16 @ 10:13 AM
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