Workers, rather than just employees, now have the benefit of an extension of the law which also protects them.

From  31st  May, workers now have the  right not to be subjected to any detriment by any act, or any deliberate failure to act, by their employers done on the grounds that either:

  • They refused to attend work due to health and safety concerns – “in circumstances of danger which the worker reasonably believed to be serious and imminent and which he or she could not reasonably have been expected to avert, he or she left (or proposed to leave) or (while the danger persisted) refused to return to his or her place of work or any dangerous part of his or her place of work”

or

  • They took steps to avoid danger – “in circumstances of danger which the worker reasonably believed to be serious and imminent, he or she took (or proposed to take) appropriate steps to protect himself or herself or other persons from the danger.”

This marks a change to the previous position in the Employment Rights Act 1996 whereby this protection was only available to employees.

The term ‘worker’ has a distinct legal meaning. A worker is any individual who undertakes to do or perform personally any work or service for another party, whether under a contract of employment or any other contract. It is therefore wider that the term “employee” and will therefore apply to more people including the so called “gig-economy” workers.

What is detriment?

Whilst the Employment Rights Act 1996 does not define the term “detriment”, a “detriment” is an act or failure to act which causes the worker or employee a disadvantage (which is not a dismissal). Examples include: a failure to promote, bullying,  closer monitoring and demotion. 

What should employers be aware of? 

In the light of the pandemic where health and safety is a particular concern to employees and workers, employers should be aware that  if it is found by a Tribunal that a worker has suffered detriment in certain health and safety cases,  they may be faced with having to  pay compensation to the worker concerned. The amount of compensation that can be awarded is uncapped in the Employment Tribunal, so it could be a very substantial award. 

If you require any further information, please contact Sabrina Rahman on 0114-228-3262 or Sabrina.Rahman@luptonfawcett.law or another member of the employment law team.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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