Here we look at your rights and what to do if you’re injured at work in the UK, and whether you can claim compensation.
If you’re thinking about making a work injury claim, we can help you to approach things in the right way so that all parties are happy to get a claim resolved. Often you can be torn between loyalty to your employer and the need to look after yourself. Knowing your legal rights, where you stand and what your employer’s responsibilities are, will help you both to see everything more clearly and avoid misunderstandings.
Table of contents
- I was injured at work, what are my rights?
- When you can make a work injury claim
- What to do after an injury at work
- Employer pressure – threats are against the law
I was injured at work, what are my rights?
In the UK, you have the same legal rights whether you have been injured at work, are suffering from a work-related illness, or a condition such as carpal tunnel syndrome, for example. It is important for you to understand your rights so that you can confidently manage your recovery and working future.
The law says all employers have a duty of care to protect the wellbeing of their employees – it doesn’t matter who you work for or what you do, whether you’re a temp working for an agency, full-time staff or self-employed.
Your rights include being able to:
- Receive medical attention
- Report and record your injury
- Attend future medical appointments
- Take time off to recover
- Seek lighter duties
Importantly, if it can be proved your employer has been negligent and you were injured as a result, one of the rights you have is to make a no win no fee personal injury claim. If you want to claim for injuries after an accident at work, our experts can quickly let you know if you have a case.
When you can make a work injury claim
Just because you have been injured at work, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be entitled to make a claim for personal injury compensation: Your injury must be severe enough; happened within the last three years; and your employer must be at fault.
What injuries can you claim for?
Your work injury has to be severe enough to provide a sufficient level of ‘quantum’ for a claim to be placed with a no win no fee solicitor. To ensure that the injury value is sufficient, it is usually the case that an injured employee will need to have suffered for a period of 4 weeks or more. You have a good chance of claiming compensation if any of the following apply:
- You are still receiving treatment for a work injury or illness.
- You have taken time off work to recover.
- You have been unable to return to work doing the same job or hours.
Note that the injury need not be new – you can also claim if working conditions or an accident at work made a pre-existing injury worse. You may even be able to claim if you are partly at fault, in what’s known as contributory negligence or split liability. Claims can even be made if a company has ceased trading, merged or gone in to administration.
Every injury has its own unique circumstances, and no two are the same. Therefore, it is vital you seek proper advice so that you know whether or not you have a viable claim.
How to know if your employer is at fault
In most cases, it is relatively easy for us to evaluate the likely outcome of a claim. We’ll work out if it can be proven your employer was liable for your injury, failed in their duty of care, and therefore is responsible for compensating you for your injuries and any other losses. Here are some basic pointers that can help you identify where you stand regarding the strength of a claim or otherwise:
- Have you had proper training? (this could relate to manual handling or other job relevant training).
- Were you given an induction to the workplace? This would include guidance on accident management protocols, safety exits, hazard avoidance etc.
- Were you provided with, or advised what PPE you should use to complete your job safely?
- Did your employer allow you to work with faulty equipment?
- Were you told how to report injuries and how to access the accident book?
- Was your environment safe? For example, was it free of hazards that could lead to a fall at work?
- Did your employer act upon reports of potential risks of danger to employees?
Furthermore, your employer must follow these laws to reduce the risk of staff being injured at work:
- The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 covers England and Wales
- The Health and Safety at Work Order 1978 covers Northern Ireland
- Employment Rights Act 1996
- Equality Act 2010
What to do after an injury at work
Below is a basic plan of action you should try to follow if you’re injured at work. This will also give you the evidence you need to make a claim:
Get medical treatment
If an employer attempts to prevent you from seeking medical attention, they are in breach of the law and acting completely improperly. Most workplaces will have a designated first aid officer in the event of an injury. You should see this person but also make sure that you either visit your GP or local A&E department. Similarly, for an illness you should first visit your GP.
Record the accident details
If you’re suffering from a work-related illness, ensure your employer has written notification of this. If you’re injured at work, you should record the details within your employer’s accident book.
If you haven’t done this already, don’t worry, we can help you to do so.
If your employer won’t record the accident or let you see the book, there are actions you can take. Accident book entries should usually be done within minutes and the injured party should contribute to what is written and only sign it when they are happy with the way the accident circumstances have been recorded. If relevant, previous complaints or comments from staff to management about potential hazards that relate to the accident in question should be noted.
The injuries should be described and their cause listed. For example: “Joe has suffered a nasty laceration to his right hand and 3 fingers after it became trapped in the cutting machine on the factory floor. The safety guard was broken and not repaired despite the staff informing Management of the issue. Ambulance called and Joe has been taken to Hospital for treatment. This has been reported to Management”. The injured party should ask for a copy of the accident book entry.
Do not feel that reporting the accident would tarnish the reputation of your company. Your employer is responsible for your safety. Immediately reporting the accident to your employer will help them curtail such accidents in future by adopting proper safety precautions.
Depending on the type of accident, the employer is legally bound to report it via RIDDOR to the Incident Contact Centre of the HSE. As your employer is responsible for reporting to the HSE, you should always check to see whether this has been done.
Confirm your sick pay
Not all employees will receive full pay if on sick leave from work, commonly your employer will put you on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Although SSP is far from a living wage, it could be enough to help you get by. Make sure that your employer has registered you for SSP. If you are unsure, you should contact your local benefits office.
Knowing your rights is key – if you’ve been injured in a workplace accident that wasn’t your fault, you can claim for compensation to supplement your sick pay and cover your losses.
Attend medical appointments
If you are back at work but still receiving outpatient treatments for your injuries, such as physiotherapy or check-ups with a consultant, your employer MUST release you to attend the same.
Take time to recover
Taking time away from the workplace to aid your recovery will not only benefit you by reducing the length of time that you are injured, but also benefit your employer by enabling you to return to full duties at the earliest opportunity. If your employer is pressuring you to return to work if you want to keep your job, you should seek legal advice regarding this issue. An unfit employee is a dangerous employee and not only will you be risking your own health by rushing back to work, but you could also be risking the health of your colleagues.
Seek light duties
Removing you for a time from the situation causing the problem can often help. This would apply to psychological injuries, such as stress, as well as physical injuries. If your usual work involves aspects of hard physical labour such as heavy lifting, carrying, climbing or standing for long periods, your employer is duty bound to accommodate you (where possible) in returning to work on lighter duties whilst you complete your recovery. It could be that you usually work in a heavy lifting capacity but that a back injury will prevent you from doing that for sometime. Therefore, if your employer can accommodate you within an office for a few weeks on lighter duties, you can return to work and continue to earn your usual salary.
Claim injury compensation
It is your right to make a work accident claim if you suffer an injury or illness at work that is a result of your employer’s negligence. They have a legal responsibility to ensure a safe and secure working environment for staff and prevent foreseeable injuries, both physical and psychological.
A successful personal injury claim will ultimately see a claimant recover a settlement for their injuries, ongoing treatment and also for their special damages, which covers financial losses such as lost income.
Employer pressure – threats are against the law
A very common worry for people is how making a claim will affect their employer. This fear can be played upon, and we understand that you may be placed under pressure by your employer NOT to pursue a claim for personal injury compensation.
Employers that are liable on grounds of negligence for injuries sustained in the workplace have no right whatsoever to prevent an employee from pursuing a claim.
Indeed, the law recognises this and protects your rights in the following ways:
- It is illegal for your employer to sack you if a claim is made or being considered, and if they do you may have a case for unfair dismissal.
- Similarly, if employer threats or other pressures force you to leave your job, you may have a case for constructive dismissal.
In such circumstances, you should seek advice from a solicitor or your local citizens advice bureau.
Clearly, the decision as to whether or not to pursue a claim rests with the injured employee. If the injuries are minor, will cause no long-term problems, and the employee can still work and therefore not lose wages, they may well decide that they do not wish to pursue a claim for compensation. However, where the injuries are more serious and an inability to work follows, exercising your legal right to make a claim for compensation is the only option for most people.
Read our guide to work accident compensation for a comprehensive run down of what’s involved in making a claim against your employer.