Duty of care examples

Employers have a legal, moral and ethical duty to their staff. All employers should be aware of this duty of care, so what does it mean?

It’s your obligation to ensure the physical and mental safety of everyone associated with your business. This responsibility extends to people in your building, including contractors, clients, volunteers and members of the public.

Although it's a legal requirement, focusing on the health and wellbeing of your workers has clear benefits for your business as well.

Employees’ will feel more valued and loyal to your organisation. They'll also have more confidence to raise concerns about other unsafe practices in the workplace. All of which increases morale and productivity.

In this article, we explore some examples of duty of care as well as the repercussions if you’re found to be in breach of said duty.

Our previous post touched on the meaning of duty of care as well as your roles and responsibilities.

 

Examples of duty of care

  • An employee has work-related Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) from repetitive hand movements. Symptoms include shooting pains in the hands, wrists and forearms.
    An example of duty of care is providing that worker with a specialist keyboard that allows them to complete tasks at work.

  • Your duty of care also extends to disabled staff members. For example, an employee was involved in a car accident and is now confined to a wheelchair. Your duty of care, in this case, is to ensure the employee has access to any services or facilities your able-bodied employees have access to. You’ll need to provide wheelchair access and perhaps even reorganise aspects of the work environment. This is to ensure your disabled employees have just as many opportunities as your able-bodied workers.

  • You also have a legal duty to protect your employees from excessive levels of stress. One of the ways to do this is with a risk assessment. If upon completion of the assessment you discover areas within the business where employees experience high levels of stress, you have a duty of care to take steps to alleviate the causes. For example, you could offer structured counselling as part of your EAP for your staff experiencing stress or anxiety as a result of work or non-work related pressures.

Breach of duty of care case examples

You’re likely to be found in breach of your duty if you’ve failed to take reasonable steps to ensure your employee’s health, safety and wellbeing.

Reasonable steps should always begin with a conversation with the worker concerned. Offering services like counselling for anxiety or work-related stress to staff members make it less likely for you to fail in your duty to care to your employees.

Being in breach of your duty could have detrimental effects on your business and workforce. The business suffers from the costs associated with claims for constructive dismissal or if an employee quits because of failure to make reasonable adjustments.

A breach by either you or your worker may result in a civil case or even criminal prosecution by the HSE. In order to make a negligence of duty of care claim, for example, staff members will have to prove how and why you’ve been in breach of your duty.

If, for instance, they trip because of trailing cables, they’ll need to show you breached your duty of care by not posting warning signs or clearing passageways.

While a majority of the duties of care are with you, it’s worth noting that employees also have responsibilities for their own health & safety, as well as other people at work.

For example, by law, they’re allowed to refuse any unsafe work undertaking without fear of disciplinary action.

 

Expert advice

If you’d like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Health Assured on 0844 892 2493.

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