In light of the recent global pandemic, we have received an increasing number of enquiries relating to health & safety in the workplace. All employees have the right to raise health & safety concerns with their employer and are offered protection from experiencing detrimental treatment as a result of raising these concerns.
Automatic Unfair Dismissal for Health & Safety Reasons
The Employment Rights Act 1996 provides that as an employee you cannot be dismissed because you have raised a legitimate health and safety concern about the conditions of your employment with your employer.
It is automatically unfair to dismiss an employee because:
- They refuse to attend their place of work because they have a reasonable belief that attending work would place them in serious and imminent danger, and they cannot avoid that danger. An example of this would be where an office worker refuses to return to work following lock down because they are told to share a room with 5 other people and no Covid-19 or social distancing measures have been implemented.
- They take appropriate steps to protect themselves or others and in doing so do not act negligently. An example of this would be where a driver refuses to drive a vehicle on the road which they know to be defective.
- They have brought to the attention of their employer, working conditions which they reasonably believe to be harmful. An example of this would be where a nurse brings to the attention of her superior that hygiene practises are not being adhered to on the ward.
The Employment Rights Act 1996 also extends protection to an employee where they are subject to detrimental treatment whilst at work because they raised health and safety concerns. Examples of detrimental treatment include being yelled at, sworn at, or bullied at work; being excluded from meetings or promotion opportunities; having their hours reduced; or being subject to disciplinary action etc.
If you are being subjected to detrimental treatment the first action that should be taken is to raise your concerns with your employer as a formal grievance. Please see the information available on this website about how to raise a grievance lincslaw.co.uk/blog/need-to-send-a-grievance-or-compliant-to-your-employer.
Where an employee can show they have been dismissed due to raising health and safety concerns, the dismissal will automatically be classed as unfair, and a claim to the Employment Tribunal can be brought.
In these circumstances, the employee may be able to claim compensation. A compensation claim for unfair dismissal consists of two elements. The first is a basic award which is calculated by reference to the length of employment. The second element is a compensatory award which looks to compensate employees for their loss of earnings. This element will also consider other financial benefits that have now been lost, such as pensions and other work benefits (company car, health care etc).
Additionally, if the employee is claiming they have suffered detrimental treatment then additional compensation may be claimed to compensate for any injury to feelings or emotional damage which the detriments caused.
Time Limits for Automatic Unfair Dismissal and Detrimental Treatment Claims
You will need to begin the ACAS Early Conciliation process within three months less one day from your date of dismissal, or last act of detriment. The time limit for submitting your Employment Tribunal claim will depend upon the dates of your ACAS Early Conciliation. However, it is important that you begin the ACAS Early Conciliation process within the three-month deadline as to fail to do so may render your claim out of time.
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors Can Help
If you are suffering a detriment or have been dismissed from work for raising health and safety concerns, please call for a free no obligation telephone enquiry on 01522 440512, use our contact form, email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the webchat on this website.