Many people worry about their job security after being injured at work or how it will affect relations with their employer, especially if they want to seek compensation. The common concern is that claiming against your employer might result in you being sacked. Or, if not sacked, then cold-shouldered, harassed and effectively forced to resign.
First things first: in most cases, fears like this are totally unfounded. You can’t be fired for an accident that wasn’t your fault, or for making a legitimate compensation claim against your employer for your injuries, and such a claim is unlikely to cause you issues at work.
In short, you should think of a compensation claim as a fair legal process rather than something which could antagonise your employer. We deal with countless cases that are resolved without any ill feeling.
Now let’s cover the situation in more detail.
Table of contents
- How your employer should handle accidents at work
- I’m worried I’ll be sacked if I make a claim. What are my rights?
- What happens if my claim causes bad relations with my employer?
- How to win your claim and keep your job
- Comments – your questions answered
How your employer should handle accidents at work
By law, UK employers have a duty of care to their staff if they are injured at work. All employers should have a published policy known of by key staff members and put in to place whenever the worst happens.
Good employers will deal with accidents in a professional and effective manner. They will record details of an accident in their accident book, report it to the HSE via RIDDOR if required, and not stand in their employees way should they need to make a claim for compensation. Bad employers will be less helpful, they may try to prevent access to the accident book and be obstructive towards staff who are injured, perhaps even threatening them with the sack.
Most employers will act with integrity in the case of an accident, but some may try to pressure you into signing a form that effectively asks you to accept liability for the incident. Try to avoid doing this (although depending on the situation, a tribunal or court may choose to disregard it in any case).
The government has a number of health and safety guidelines that must be followed and it is an employer’s legal obligation to ensure that these guidelines are implemented. If they haven’t been, then your employer is negligent and you have the right to claim compensation.
I’m worried I’ll be sacked if I make a claim. What are my rights?
Your rights are simple. Your employer is not allowed to fire you for proceeding with a legitimate claim. Remember, all employers are required by law to have insurance in place. Employees sometimes hold back from making a valid claim after an accident, wrongly thinking they’ll be leaving their employers out of pocket. But if you do make a successful claim, any compensation will be paid by the insurance company, rather than your employer.
Apart from keeping your job, you also have other rights if you’ve been injured in a work accident, such as being placed on light duties until you recover. Be aware that there’s a three-year limit associated with workplace-related personal injury claims. These claims can sometimes be time-consuming, so our advice would be to get the ball rolling early. The three years begin from the time of the accident.
One other important point. If you do find yourself in a situation where you’ve been sacked following a legitimate claim – which is thankfully rare – you would then have a further case to claim for unfair dismissal. Employees can only be sacked after an accident for their own gross misconduct, or for being drunk or intoxicated at the time of the incident.
What happens if my claim causes bad relations with my employer?
If you work for a large company with an HR department, the firm may not even be aware that a claim’s taking place. Only if you work for a smaller firm, with no HR personnel, might you be unlucky enough to receive negative treatment – and even then, this would be rare.
The majority of reputable employers will view a valid claim in a rational way, rather than seeing it as personal. The truth is, however, that a minority of small businesses do occasionally take claims badly, and may even retaliate by making things more difficult for their employee. If relations between you and your employer do start to sour, to the point where you’re being harassed and unfairly treated, you may feel you have no option but to resign. In this instance, you could have a case for constructive dismissal.
Our partner firm has a leading employment law team who can give advice on your rights, and on what your employer can and cannot do. If, as a result of making a claim, your employer’s behaviour changes and your working environment becomes toxic, it’s important to seek advice immediately.
For constructive dismissal claims, you need to make a claim within three months of resigning.
How to win your claim and keep your job
To help your work accident claim, there are certain steps you are within your rights to take in order to prove what happened.
Firstly, report the incident to your employer as soon as possible. Try to ensure there’s a written record of the accident, ideally in the accident book, or you can put it in writing to your employer by other means. Never sign a report that is inaccurate – especially if you haven’t had a chance to read it or contribute to it.
Try to take photos of your injuries, and the place where the accident occurred. If you’ve been asked to work in an unsafe location, for example, you’ll need to prove this. Should you be too badly injured to take photos yourself, and it’s feasible to ask someone else to do this, always do so.
That said, it’s worth pointing out that if taking photos proves impossible, there’s no need to panic. It certainly doesn’t mean your claim will fail.
Another important piece of advice is to seek medical attention for your injuries. If you’ve been badly hurt this goes without saying, but if your injuries are genuine yet more subtle – or likely to worsen over time – then medical advice won’t just help you in the short-term, it will also give you further evidence to submit, in the event of a claim.
If negligence can be shown, and if you’ve suffered loss of earnings, been negatively impacted or been unable to work as a result of your injury, then there’s a strong chance your claim will be successful. The amount that’s due to you will depend on various factors, including the nature of the accident, the severity of the injury and the length of time you’ve been affected.
It goes without saying, of course, that you need to be honest throughout the process. If any part of a claim is dishonest or misleading, it could lead to the claimant’s employment being terminated. The risk of criminal prosecution could also come into play.
Any other questions? Feel free to get in touch for a no-obligation consultation.