A landmark case, which we have reported on before, will have a significant impact on employers who manage agency workers and those in the “gig economy”.

The case, involving the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, means that workers are now entitled to the same protection as employees in certain aspects of health and safety. In particular, if they suffered detriment because they have decided to protect themselves from serious and imminent danger, on health and safety grounds such as COVID-19.

The crux of the case was that the UK Government had not implemented some aspects of European health and safety law. Especially with regard to limb (B) workers. These are typically couriers, taxi drivers, delivery personnel etc.

Under existing health and safety law, employers are under a general duty to protect the health and safety of not just employees, but others who may be affected by their business operation. As a result of this case, sub-contractors, agency workers and those in the gig economy will now have the right to refuse work that they do not believe to be safe, and will need to be provided with PPE, if necessary, by the employer.

Of course, the current situation is complicated by Brexit. Nobody knows quite how European law is going to continue to be incorporated in UK law over the next few years. However, as a result of this case, experts are certain that existing law will continue to apply after we leave the EU, until the Government decides to change it.

So, employers should consider taking the following actions, to make the situation clear for both workers and their Managers.

  • Clarifying workers contracts so that all parties understand their rights;
  • Ensuring that the Employment Handbook or policies address the treatment of workers to ensure that it is compliant, or, have a separate Handbook specifically for workers;
  • Similarly, update workplace risk assessments and procedures to ensure that they apply equally to workers as well as employees;
  • Ensure that workers are conversant with your operational and safety procedures, risk assessments and employment policies;
  • Understand where workers, as well as employees, needs to be provided with PPE;
  • Train line Managers to understand that all of their workers, not just employees, need to be provided with the relevant information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing is looked after;

It is easy to think that because you sub-contract work to those who are either employed for another organisation, or who are self-employed, you do not have the same responsibility for their welfare. Actually, employers have a very wide responsibility for all of those who visit their premises, including customers and visitors, and this extends to third parties like delivery drivers, who are entitled to access to toilets.

It is important that employers understand what these changes mean, as it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your duty of care to workers is lower.


Our Consultants would be pleased to advise you on any element of the issues arising from this newsletter.