What Can Companies Do To Avoid Getting Sued By Employees?
Workplace related injuries are one of the top reasons why employers get sued or face losses. For example, according to research conducted by the Health and Safety Executive, in the year 2013/2014 employers faced a cost of around £2.8 billion as a result of workplace related concerns to employees’ health and safety. Statistics from the research also revealed that 27.3 million working days were lost due to such injuries. This means that apart from the monetary price that employers pay in many such instances, there can also be a significant negative impact on the everyday functioning of a company due to employee accidents and injuries (RoSPA, 2016 ¹). However, most of these problems could be mitigated if organisations implement a few general safety, ethics and health related measures for the benefit of employees. The following are a few areas that companies could focus on:
Stressful Working Conditions
The mental state of employees is something that employers should pay attention to while running a business or an organisation. Stressful working conditions such as unreasonable deadlines, work overloads and overtime, etc. can not only negatively affect an employee’s productivity, but also lead many to sue for compensation. There are various laws that regulate labour standards, especially for workers who work on a daily or hourly wage (GOV.UK, 2015 ²). In order to avoid such lawsuits, companies could set up a system to monitor and control the number of hours an employee works, the amount of work that is distributed per day, etc.
Discrimination and Harassment
Bullying employees, treating them in an offensive manner, verbally assaulting them or intimidating them can all amount to unlawful harassment, which is considered a form of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Being racist, even in a "harmless" or "humorous" manner, spreading rumours with ill-intent, humiliation, unwelcome sexual advances, etc. are some common examples of what harassment in the workplace can look like. It is the responsibility of employers to protect employees from any and all forms of discrimination or harassment at work. Not only is it bad for a company in terms of lawsuits to be negligent in such cases, it is also very harmful to a company’s reputation and culture. Employers should implement very strict guidelines for conduct in the workplace and also take proactive measures to ensure these guidelines are strictly adhered to (Citizens Advice, 2016 ³).
Physical Injuries and Threats
Does the workplace comply with appropriate safety standards such as clearly-marked fire exits and entrances, well-maintained elevators, obstacle free floors or rubber door mats, all of which reduce the chances of accidents? One of the most common reasons for employers getting sued is directly related to the health hazards, accidents and injuries that employees might experience due to some aspect of their physical work environment. In fact, this phenomenon is so common that there are numerous law firms and agencies that crowd online search engines and media outlets in order to grab the attention of employees who might have suffered a physical grievance due to work. Take for example Mirror Online, which featured a very compelling article titled "Workplace Accidents: How to claim if you've been hurt" in January this year (Mirror, 2016 ⁴). Employers could go the extra mile to ensure that the physical space used by workers is equipped with well-maintained and correctly functioning equipment. Placing handrails in bathrooms, using an anti slip mat for wet areas, providing employees with ergonomic furniture, etc. are all measures that employers could take.
One company from whom organisations could purchase safety mats, health-oriented furniture, office chair mats, etc. is AJ Products.
¹ RoSPA (2016) "Occupational Safety – Facts & Figures" The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents [Online] available from: http://www.rospa.com/occupational-safety/advice/facts-figures/ [accessed July 2016]
² GOV.UK (2015) Overtime: your rights [Online] available from: https://www.gov.uk/overtime-your-rights/overview [accessed July 2016]
³ Citizens Advice (2016) Discrimination at work - bullying and harassment [Online] available from: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/discrimination-at-work/common-situations/discrimination-at-work-bullying-and-harassment/ [accessed July 2016]
⁴ Mirror (2016) Workplace Accidents: How to claim if you've been hurt [Online] available from: http://www.mirror.co.uk/features/workplace-accidents-how-claim-youve-7239695 [accessed July 2016]
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