The employer’s duty of care

The following PI & Clinical Negligence practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • The employer’s duty of care
  • Overriding duties
  • Safe premises
  • Safe plant and equipment
  • Safe system of working and safe working practices
  • Competent fellow staff
  • The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013

The employer’s duty of care

Overriding duties

At common law, an employer is under a duty to take reasonable care of the health and safety of its employees in all the circumstances of the case so as not to expose them to an unnecessary risk.

This duty of care extends to the employee’s physical and mental health. For further guidance on occupational stress cases, see Practice Notes: Occupational stress—introduction and Occupational stress—establishing liability.

The common law duty is a personal, non-delegable duty and cannot be discharged by entrusting the safety of one employee to another or to an independent contractor.

The standard of care is determined by requirements of reasonableness. It requires the employer to assess the potential risk of injury as against the harm it would cause the employee and the cost of putting safety precautions in place.

The duty is owed to the individual employee so the standard of care will vary depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, if an employee only has one eye then this special risk of injury is a relevant consideration in determining what precautions an employer should take. The greater the danger, the higher the degree of care expected from the employer.

However, the employer does not have to provide a workplace that is absolutely safe but rather reduce any risks so far as is reasonable. The fact that the duty

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