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Health and Safety detriments extended to "workers"

It is established law that employees are protected from suffering a detriment on health and safety grounds.

Last November we reported on a case which involved about 5,000 union members who were predominantly low paid, migrant workers and gig economy workers. They brought claims that they had suffered health and safety detriments including lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), failure to implement social distancing and failure to package COVID-19 samples correctly so as to protect medical couriers. There was evidence that some of the union’s members were scared by having to work without the PPE that they considered they required.

The High Court held that the UK had failed to implement the European Directive correctly, which should be extended to cover all those who fall within the autonomous meaning of ‘worker’ specific to EU law. This covers any person who performs services for and under the direction of another person in return for remuneration. The protection therefore should be extended to cover workers, not just employees.

Following that decision new regulations have now come into force which extend the protection to workers, rather than just employees, where they reasonably believe that being at work would place them (or someone else, such as a household member) in serious, imminent danger. The extension to workers applies to any detriment taking place on or after the 31 May 2021.



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