Employees injured at work are choosing not to take action against their employer because they are concerned it might lead to their dismissal, according to a leading solicitor.

James Barker, head of personal injury at Kirwans law firm, said that a number of employees are failing to take civil action, leaving them struggling with the loss of income caused by unpaid time off work and painful injuries.

As a result, many poor work practices are going unchallenged, leaving employees vulnerable to physical injury and mental health problems.

James said: “I am increasingly hearing anecdotal evidence of cases where people have been injured at work but have chosen not to seek redress because they’re convinced that doing so could result in disciplinary proceedings and their eventual dismissal.

“This is extremely concerning, because not only does it mean that people are failing to claim compensation that is owed to them, but also that those employers – and I must stress that they are in the minority – who behave in an unscrupulous manner are able to continue doing so, safe in the knowledge that they are unlikely to be challenged.”

James said it is vital that employees understand their rights when it comes to health and safety at work, in order to ensure that they and their colleagues are protected from potential injury.

“With regards to the protections offered by the law in terms of ensuring their wellbeing at work, the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act) is a piece of legislation which is enforced, in most cases, by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local councils.

“Employers should carry out risk assessments for both low and higher risk activities, and there are some general health and safety basics that employers should have in place.

“These include:

· The appointment of a competent person to help meet health and safety requirements;

· A health and safety policy that all employees are aware of;

· Ensuring employees are aware of first aid arrangements and having a first aid kit;

· Displaying the health and safety law poster;

· Carrying out risk assessments;

· Consulting employees on health and safety practices;

· Having employers’ liability insurance in place;

· Having the right workplace facilities;

· Ensuring that employees are provided with suitable and safe equipment;

· Carrying out risk assessments and providing suitable protective equipment for employees dealing with hazardous substances.

· Providing information and training where necessary;

· Having the right workplace facilities;

· Reporting accidents and illnesses.

And while concerns about potential repercussions are understandable, Lindsey Knowles, Head of Employment Law at Kirwans, said employees cannot be dismissed for bringing a personal injury claim against an employer.

Lindsey explained: “There are employment laws in place to protect employees who bring forward cases, so no worker should ever feel frightened of doing so.

“Employers have a responsibility to make sure that, while employees are at work, they are protected against personal injuries and accidents. In the event that they experience an accident or injury, they have the right to seek compensation.

“Should they choose to do so, they cannot by law be sacked or be made to feel they need to leave their job – also known as constructive or unfair dismissal – as long as they have completed at least two years, or 103 weeks, service. Should this occur, they will have further grounds for another claim against their employer.

“Those employees without two years of service are still protected if the dismissal relates to whistle-blowing in relation to a health and safety issue, in which case it can be automatically found to be unfair.

“Employees with under two years’ service should take legal advice on how best to protect their employment position before bringing a personal injury claim.”

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