In recent times we have seen a significant increase in the number of assaulted at work compensation claims as a result of workplace altercations. Before we look into claiming compensation for an assault at work in more detail it is worth noting that the term assault covers both physical and verbal assault. The idea that you have to be physically injured to claim compensation is a common misconception because the law places as much emphasis on verbal assault as it does on physical assault.
If you have been assaulted in the workplace by a colleague, client or a visitor to the premises you may have a case for compensation. There have been many instances where victims have been led to believe their employer was in no way negligent or liable and have not pursued their case. The reality is that personal injury solicitors have access to legal services which can very quickly identify possible negligence.
Identifying An Assault At Work
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a government body which is responsible for all issues regarding health and safety in the workplace. Assault or violence in the workplace is officially defined by the HSE as –
Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.
While physical assault in the workplace still occurs on a regular basis there has been a large increase in sexist, homophobic and racist verbal abuse and other examples of discrimination which may result in assaulted at work compensation being paid.
As we touched on above, in the eyes of the law all employees are offered protection from both verbal assault and physical assault.
Statistics On Assaults In The Workplace
A report by the HSE makes for very depressing reading with confirmation that at least 350,000 workers experienced one or more assaults in the workplace during the financial year 2015/16. There were 158,000 cases of physical assault at work and 210,000 cases of verbal abuse. When you take into account the overall workforce in the UK this equates to about 1.4%. However, do the statistics reflect levels of assault on the ground?
It goes without saying that the vast majority of people on the receiving end of physical and verbal abuse in the workplace are hesitant when it comes to taking legal action. We can safely say that the figure of 1.4% is very much on the low side because at the end of the day reporting your employer or causing “trouble” at work could result in a loss of employment. Even though there are various statutory laws to protect whistleblowers, and those on the receiving end of physical and verbal abuse in the workplace, many people have families to provide for and money could be tight.
At Risk From Assault Professions
Over the years we have seen an increase in both physical and verbal assault in the workplace across an array of careers. In general employees seem to be more at risk of assault in the social services profession, work in the community and mental health services. Those who work alone at night also appear susceptible as do those who regularly carry valuables or cash.
The following list of professions will give you an idea of where the vast majority of workplace assault claims originate from:
- Building trade.
- Bus drivers and other public transport staff.
- Carers and social workers.
- Psychiatric nurses.
- Prison officers.
- Police force.
- Debt collectors.
- Traffic wardens.
- Security guards.
In some of these professions there seems to be a long-term assumption that physical and verbal abuse “is part of the job”. This is most certainly not the case and while more work needs to be done to educate the wider general public about their rights, progress is being made. The statutory framework surrounding protection of employees has increased dramatically, employee rights are written in the statute books and employer liabilities have been reaffirmed.
Is Your Employer Responsible For An Assault At Work Compensation Claim?
Whether or not your employer is responsible for an assault at work compensation claim for compensation will obviously depend upon the details of the incident. Unfortunately, there are numerous occasions where employers partake in the physical or verbal assault of employees. In these incidents it is fairly straightforward that the employer has been negligent and may be liable to legal action by the authorities and an assaulted at work claim by the individual.
The situation is a little less clear where a claimant is attacked by a work colleague or a visitor to the workplace. It is worth noting that employers have a legal “duty of care” to safeguard their employees while not only in the workplace but also when carrying out employment tasks away from the working environment. They must take reasonable action to ensure the safety of their employees and regular assessments must be carried out to update any potential issues. There are a number of workplace situations where there is a relatively strong correlation with both physical and verbal assaults which include:
- Situations where staffing levels are dangerously low which can create a potentially dangerous environment.
- Lack of training for employees working with mentally unstable individuals or those with a record of violence.
- Instances in the services industry where employees are not afforded physical barriers to potentially violent members of the public.
Sometimes employers can find themselves in difficult situations where perhaps a member of staff has shown violent tendencies in the past but they have insufficient evidence to terminate their employment. The employee in question has protections under the law while the employer has a “duty of care” to protect other members of staff. At worst action should be taken to mitigate the risk of assault at work as much as possible and potentially dangerous employees and colleagues offered support, retraining and possibly counselling to assist with their own issues.
When Your Employer Is Responsible For An Assault At Work
If your employer is directly or indirectly responsible for an assault at work it is vital that you take professional advice as soon as possible. There is no point in sweeping these kinds of issues under the carpet because they very rarely disappear without third party intervention. After a confidential chat with a personal injury solicitor they will be able to advise you about the strength of your case on a No Win No Fee basis and any potential compensation award.
When Your Employer Is Not Responsible For An Assault At Work
While there are cases where an employer has seemingly undertaken their duty of care to protect employees to the best of their ability, this is not always the case. Establishing liability in relation to an assault at work can be challenging but what seems like a potentially open and shut case could be very different in the eyes of the law. Many people are also under the misapprehension that an employer is not potentially responsible for any assault taking place off work premises even when carrying out employment duties. Just because the assault did not occur in the workplace does not mean that an employer is automatically exempt from any form of liability. If indeed your employer is not liable, having taken reasonable precautions to protect the workforce, there is still one more port of call.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is a publicly funded body which covers the issue of compensation for victims of violence and abuse. Millions of pounds in compensation have been paid over the years regardless of whether the assailant has been prosecuted, convicted or even in some cases identified. The burden of proof for a CICA claim is significantly lower than that required by the court of law although full details of the incident in question will need to be presented.
Employers, Assault At Work Compensation And Employee Protection
Most people should know there is an array of statutory acts specifically in place to protect employees from an assault at work. For many people the idea of lodging a an assault at work compensation claim against their employer or work colleague seems fraught with danger on so many levels as friendships can be lost and employment put at risk. There have been instances of pressure placed upon employees to withdraw compensation claims as they would “ruin” the company and the workforce.
The idea that employers directly cover personal injury claims for assault at work compensation and similar activity is wrong. Under business law all trading entities require employer’s liability insurance which among other things will cover them for compensation claims initiated by third parties and employees.
If a business has ceased trading after a successful compensation claim for assault at work many will be surprised to learn that the claimant should still receive the compensation in full. Legal recourse would see the insurance company that provided the employer’s liability insurance settle the claim in full, as the policy was still active at the time of the assault. Some employers will use ignorance of the law to try and close down any legal action, suggesting that they will simply close the business and there would be insufficient funds to cover any compensation award.
What To Do In The Event Of An Assault At Work
If you have been assaulted in the workplace the first thing to do is remove yourself from any additional danger and seek medical assistance where appropriate. It can sometimes be difficult to think with any clarity when in a hostile environment but there are a number of actions you can take to protect yourself. These include:
- Leave the area of conflict and find a trusted friend to confide in.
- Notify your employer of the assault as soon as possible.
- Seek an immediate medical assessment of any injuries.
- Write down exactly what happened and who was involved.
- List potential witnesses to the assualt.
- Contact the police.
As we mentioned above, even if the assailant is not found guilty of assault at work it may still be possible to claim compensation for your injuries via the CICA. It is therefore vital that you write down your account of the incident in as much detail as possible.
Assault At Work Compensation
There are two specific types of damages paid in assault at work compensation which are general damages and special damages. Examples of general damages, which relate to compensation for pain and suffering, include:
- Physical pain.
- Mental anguish.
- Reduced quality of life.
- Physical suffering.
- Physical impairment.
Any compensation awarded with regards to general damages will be considered on a case-by-case basis and the impact upon the claimant’s life. There is also the issue of special damages which cover the reimbursement of additional expenses incurred because of the assault as well as any related ongoing expenses. Examples of special damages include:
- Loss of earnings.
- Loss of future earnings.
- Medical expenses.
- Travel expenses.
- Repair/ replacement of damaged goods/property.
Special damages relate to actual costs incurred and a professional estimate of future costs such as medical care.
After An Assault At Work Can An Employer Terminate Your Employment ?
There is an obvious concern for employees taking action against their employer for an assault at work, the chance they may lose their job. Legally you cannot be sacked, disciplined or experience any kind of discrimination simply because you took action against your employer. In the eyes of the law any breach of these legal obligations could see the employer prosecuted by the courts. It is understandable that employees may be concerned about taking action against their employers. However, your action may well result in a change to the working environment and greater protection for employees – if you did not take the action then others could suffer similar injuries in the future.