Health and safety
Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 protects employees from employer detriment in certain health and safety cases: if they are absent from work because they reasonably believe that attendance would put them in serious and imminent danger or take appropriate steps to protect themselves if they reasonably believe they are in serious and imminent danger.
The right currently only extends to employees, rather than the wider definition of workers.
New laws extending certain health and safety rights to workers are due to come into force on 31 May 2021. We reported last year about the case of R (Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which confirmed that the UK had failed to implement EU law properly because it limited those section 44 rights to employees. The draft order has now been tabled in Parliament and if it is approved will extend these protections to all workers.
If this Order is approved it will provide clarity in this area, at a time where health and safety is high up on everyone’s radar. The law will not be retrospective, so any alleged detriment would have to occur after 31 May 2021 to be actionable.