House of Lords backs down on health and safety reform

The House of Lords has backed down over Government plans to make it more difficult to sue employers for health and safety breaches at work.

On 22 April, peers were forced to vote for a second time on the aspect of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill that removes the principle of civil liability and forces claimants to prove negligence if they wish to claim compensation.

Previously, the Lords had opposed the Government on this particular issue, but proposals returned to the upper house after a vote in the House of Commons

Business Minister, Viscount Younger of Leckie, commented: “This reform is not about reducing the number of claims made, but about establishing the important principle that employers should always have the opportunity to defend themselves against a compensation claim when they have done nothing wrong and have taken all reasonable precautions to protect their employees.”

He added that lifting civil liability duties from employers would give them the reassurance and confidence to expand their businesses into new areas and take on new employees

Conservative peer and QC, Lord Faulks, said that the bill will help remove the perception of a compensation culture.

He stated: “This cannot be dismissed on the basis that to respond to it is simply to pander to myths. There is a strongly negative effect on employers and indeed on schools and local authorities which feel the need to set up elaborate systems to combat largely hypothetical risks.”

The Lords vote was the final word on clause 61 and it will come into law when the bill receives royal assent.