There is a common misconception that part-time workers are not afforded the same level of cover as full-time employees. The idea that somehow the rules and regulations making up the health and safety regime in the UK differentiate between different types of workers is simply wrong. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 places a legal duty of care on employers in relation to the entire workforce, whether full-time, contracted or part-time. Unfortunately, it does look as though many part-time workers have in the past decided against pursuing claims for injury compensation simply because they thought they had a weakened legal standing.
Key Employment Rights For Part-Time Workers
Before we look at part-time worker claims for compensation in more detail it is worth looking at the key employment rights for part-time workers. They include:
- The legal right not to be treated less favourably compared to full-time employees carrying out a similar role.
- The legal right to request a written statement as to why they may have been treated less favourably than a comparable full-time employee.
- The legal right to be considered for promotion or redundancy along the lines of a comparable full-time employee.
Part-time employees are also obliged to get the same rates of pay as their full-time counterparts, receive pro-rata holidays and access to career breaks amongst other things.
Employer’s Duty Of Care To Part-Time Employees
Employers have a duty of care to all of their employees including part-time workers to ensure their health and well-being while on working premises or carrying out tasks offsite. The aspect of duty of care takes in many different aspects which include:
Continuous Employee Training
Whether full-time or part-time, there is a legal obligation on all employers to make sure that staff are fully trained, both initially and ongoing, in health and safety issues specific to their role. This is obviously an added cost to employers but it is required to ensure the health and well-being of employees going forward. There is also an obligation for each employee to respect training information, company procedures and ensure that they also stick to the health and safety regulations.
Appropriate Protection For Workers
Aside from the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 there are many other acts which address health and safety issues such as the use of dangerous liquids and chemicals, the use of machinery and undertaking tasks at height. In all circumstances an employer is obliged to provide the appropriate protective equipment and safety wear. Where an injury to a part-time worker has occurred as a result of defective safety wear or a lack of protective equipment this can be deemed negligent and could result in a part-time worker compensation claim.
Suitable Tasks For Suitable Employees
Those who work on a part-time basis, or perhaps on short-term contracts, may feel obliged to carry out particular tasks to which they may not be suited. It is the role of the employer to ensure that all employees asked to undertake particular tasks have the appropriate experience and skills required. There have been instances where pressure from employers has led to some employees carrying out tasks which were obviously inappropriate for their level of skill and experience. This is a very dangerous road for employers to take, as in many cases there is an obvious degree of negligence which can prove costly.
Safe And Tidy Working Environment
We know from government published statistics there are currently 1.3 million people in the UK suffering as a result of work-related injuries or illness. This accounts for over 31 million lost working days each year and a cost of £14.9 billion to the economy. Issues such as a safe and tidy working environment may be taken for granted but there are many injuries to part-time employees each year involving trips, slips and spills. A safe and tidy working environment is vital and failure to maintain this has led to significant compensation claims in the past. Simple issues such as a delay in mopping up liquid spillages, a lack of appropriate signage, ill maintained fixtures and fittings and uneven flooring can prove to be extremely dangerous.
Employer Liability Insurance
While there are a small number of exceptions, such as family businesses, all corporate entities in the UK and individuals who take on employees are obliged by law to have employer liability insurance. This ensures that in the event of a serious injury the employer can claim from their insurance to ensure that any compensation awards are met in full. Unfortunately, in the past we have seen instances where employers have undertaken emotional blackmail suggesting that any compensation payment could “ruin the company” with potential job losses. This is simply not the case.
Indeed, in the event that a company or employer ceased trading between an injury and a prosecution, any compensation award should still be honoured by the company’s insurance company. It is illegal for companies not to have employer liability insurance and even a delay in obtaining cover can attract significant fines from the authorities.
Proving Negligence In A Part-Time Worker Compensation Claim
The specifics of individual part-time worker compensation claims will vary but ultimately any evidence that an employer failed to fulfil their duty of care to part-time employees will likely be sufficient to prove negligence. There are sometimes cases where negligence is perhaps shared amongst a number of parties but even in these situations it is not for the claimant to assign varying degrees of negligence – this will be decided by the courts.
When looking at part-time workers, often referred to as casual labour, this can in some circumstances involve young adults under the age of 18. In this instance they still have the same worker’s rights if injured in the workplace but their claim for compensation will need to be pursued by a parent or guardian over the age of 18.
Making A Claim For Compensation As A Part-Time Worker
If you are injured in the workplace as a part-time worker it is vital that the relevant medical attention is obtained as soon as it can be. Whether this is specific treatment or simply a check-up by your doctor, all of the information will be placed on record and can prove very useful when making a claim for compensation. Legally, a claimant is able to pursue a claim for compensation within a three-year period after the accident. However, as time goes by it can be difficult to recall all elements of the incident in great detail and therefore it is important that the information is recorded as soon as possible.
While it may not always be appropriate, any additional evidence such as witness statements, photographs and perhaps similar injuries in the company’s accident book can further strengthen claims for compensation. When you have gathered all of the information together, supporting evidence and medical records, this should be presented to a personal injury solicitor, preferably one who specialises in accident at work compensation claims. They can then review your case and advise you whether in their opinion you have a rightful claim for compensation as a part-time worker.
If there is a valid claim then you will likely be offered a No Win No Fee arrangement whereby the legal fees associated with the work accident solicitor are covered in the event of a failed prosecution. The cut-off point in most cases for a perceived valid claim is a minimum 60% chance of success based on the relevant information to hand.
As a consequence of bearing the risk of failure, the solicitor and claimant will come to an arrangement whereby any compensation awarded would be shared on a predetermined percentage basis. Once the agreement has been signed then a copy of the claim will be passed to both the courts and the defendant at which point they will review the evidence and either decide to contest negligence or pursue an out-of-court settlement to avoid additional fees. In the event of a case going to court, all evidence will be heard by a judge who will make an informed decision on negligence, liability and any compensation award.
Types Of Compensation A Part-Time Worker Might Claim For
When pursuing a personal injury claim as a part-time worker or indeed a full-time worker, there are two types of damages available which are general damages and also special damages. For general damages this relates to:
- Mental trauma from the injury
- Your pain and suffering
- Life changing injuries
While there is an element of discretion when awarding general damages, these are predominantly based upon similar injuries and compensation awards in years gone by. There will likely be a degree of variation to reflect specific elements of individual cases but on the whole there will be a fairly narrow band for specific types and severity of injury.
The other element of compensation is known as special damages and includes:
- Loss of earnings as a part-time worker
- Future loss of earnings
- Medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Additional transport expenses
- Adaptions to the home
In short, special damages are a reimbursement of costs incurred and future funding requirements relating wholly to the part-time employees injury and the impact on a person’s life. The above list is by no means inclusive but it does give you an idea of the different elements of compensation available.
Will You Lose Your Job By Claiming For Compensation?
While full-time employees are often reluctant to come forward and pursue valid compensation claims against their employer, the situation is often more acute for part-time workers and contractors. There is a common misconception that an employer is free to dismiss part-time employees, casual labour or contractors simply because they pursued a valid legal claim against them. Thankfully, whistleblowing is now included in an array of employee protection legislation and any employer discriminating against an individual may face serious legal and financial consequences.
The simple fact is that unless valid injury compensation claims are pursued through the courts, and third parties held to account, nothing will likely change. Unfortunately, in the world of business it is the pound in the pocket which counts and there needs to be a financial incentive (penalty) to make safer changes to the workplace. While in some circumstances it may be difficult for a part-time employee to return to the workplace after taking action there are legal protections to ensure their employment position remains open.
If you’re a part-time worker who has been injured at work through another’s negligence and would like to know more on part-time worker compensation claims please speak with us today.