A Plain English Guide To British Employment Law

Accidents in the workplace

Your employer has a duty to protect you and tell you about employment law health and safety issues that affect you. They also have a legal obligation to report certain accidents in the workplace and to pay you sick pay if you are entitled to it.

Reporting an accident in the workplace – employment law

Your employer must report serious work-related accidents, diseases and dangerous incidents to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). All incidents can be reported online. Employers can phone the Incident Contact Centre but only to report fatal and major injuries.

Your employer must report:

  • major injuries, eg a broken arm or ribs
  • dangerous incidents, eg the collapse of scaffolding, people overcome by gas
  • any other injury that stops an employee from doing their normal work for more than seven days
  • disease
  • death

The reporting must be done by your employer, but if you are involved it’s a good idea to make sure it’s been reported.

Who is responsible for health and safety at work?

Your employer has to carry out a risk assessment and do what’s needed to take care of the health and safety of employees and visitors. This includes deciding how many first-aiders are needed, and what kind of first-aid equipment and facilities should be provided. First-aiders have no statutory right to extra pay, but some employers do offer this.

Employees must also take reasonable care over their own health and safety under employment law.

Recording accidents in the workplace

Any injury at work – including minor injuries – should be recorded in your employer’s ‘accident book’. All employers (except for very small companies) must keep an accident book. It’s mainly for the benefit of employees, as it provides a useful record of what happened in case you need time off work or need to claim compensation later on.  But recording accidents also helps your employer to see what’s going wrong and take action to stop workplace accidents in future.

Sick pay

In most cases, if you need time off because of an accident at work, you will only have the right to statutory sick pay. Your employer may have a scheme for paying more for time off caused by accidents, or may decide to pay extra depending on what has happened.

Making a workplace injury claim

If you have been injured in an accident at work and you think your employer is at fault, you may want to make a claim for compensation under employment law. Any claim must be made within three years of the date of the accident, and you will normally need a lawyer to represent you. If you belong to a trade union, you may be able to use their legal services. Otherwise, you should speak to a specialist personal injury lawyer.

Under employment law, your employer must be insured to cover a successful claim. Your employer should place a certificate with the name of their employer’s insurance company where it can be seen at work. If not, they must give you the details if you need them.

If you are considering suing your employer, remember that the aim of legal damages is to put you in the position you would be in had the accident not happened.

What to do next if you have an accident at work

  • make sure you record any injury in the ‘accident book’
  • if need be, make sure your employer has reported it to the HSE online
  • check your contract or written statement of employment for information about sick or accident pay
  • if there’s a dispute, try to sort it out with your employer
  • if there are employment law health and safety problems at work, point them out to your employer or the employee safety representative, and ask for them to be dealt with