international employment law firm alliance L&E Global
United Kingdom

UK: Health and Safety – Protection of Workers

The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain brought an application for judicial review, seeking a declaration that the UK had failed properly to implement into national law two EU Directives. While these directives require EU member states to confer protections on workers, the implementing UK legislation covers only employees.

The High Court found that the UK has failed to implement the EU directives into UK law properly, such that:

  • all workers should have the right not to be subjected to a detriment for leaving or refusing to come to work in circumstances where they have a reasonable belief they or others are in “serious and imminent danger”
  • suitable PPE is provided to all workers who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety at work, except where such risk is adequately controlled by other effective means.

Practical point

This decision potentially gives all workers protection from detriment on health and safety grounds, including where they leave work or refuse to come into work due to a reasonable belief of serious and imminent danger, and in relation to the provision of suitable PPE. The Covid-19 pandemic has given these protections particular significance.

The effect of this judgment is that the UK government needs to amend domestic legislation so that workers benefit from these protections in the same way as employees. That said, public sector workers can in any event enforce these EU directives directly against their employer in the UK courts.

IWGB v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions



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