In any accident at work or job that’s causing an illness, whether physical or psychological, an employee can be torn between a responsibility to their employer and to themselves. If you’re thinking about claiming personal injury compensation, it’s hard to know where to turn and how to approach things in the right way so that all parties are happy to get a claim resolved. Knowing your legal rights, where you and your employer stand, will help you both to see everything more clearly and avoid misunderstandings.
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I was injured at work, what are my rights?
You have the same legal rights whether you have been injured in an accident at work, are regularly getting hurt at work (with a repetitive strain injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome, for example), or are suffering from a work-related illness. It is important for you to understand your rights so that you can confidently manage your recovery and working future. It doesn’t matter who you work for or what you do, from offices to factories, temps to care workers in the NHS, below is a basic plan of action you should try to follow:
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 details
If you’re suffering from a work-related illness, ensure your employer has written notification of this. In the case of accident in which you’re injured, you should record the details within your employer’s accident book. Make sure you state the details and that you do not sign any record that does not match your version of the events. If you haven’t done this already, don’t worry, we can help you to do so.
Confirm your sick pay
Not all employees will receive full pay if on sick leave from work. This depends on the contract you have with your employer. However, all employees are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they do not get full sickness pay. 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.
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.
It is your right to seek compensation for your pain and discomfort, and also to recover losses (such as lost income) should you be out of pocket. Your employer cannot sack you for doing so. If you find that an employer makes your life difficult after you pursue a claim, you could have grounds for legal action against them, possibly even constructive dismissal. In such circumstances, you should seek advice from a solicitor or your local citizens advice bureau.
You can make a personal injury 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 missed salaries.
Find out if you can claim compensation
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 employer must be 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 accident, and therefore responsible for compensating you for your injuries and any other losses that you may incur.
Every accident 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. However, there are some basic pointers that can help you identify where you stand regarding the strength of a claim or otherwise.
- Did your employer ever give you any training? (this could relate to manual handling training, specific training to use certain machinery or other job relevant training). If the answer is no, your employer has breached health and safety guidance already.
- 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 personal safety and protective equipment you should have to complete your job safely? If the answer is no, your employer could be liable for your injury.
- Did your employer adequately maintain equipment and service machines? Did they ensure that safety guards and mechanisms worked?
- Were you advised how to report accidents and how to access the accident book?
- Did the employer ensure correct staffing levels and an adequate amount of first aid trained staff?
- Did your employer act upon reports of potential risks of danger to employees?
For more information on what’s involved in making a claim against your employer, read our guide to claiming accident at work compensation.
Employer pressure – threats are against the law
A very common worry for people is how making a claim will affect their job. 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 accidents at work and injuries sustained in the workplace have no right whatsoever to prevent an employee from pursuing a claim. Indeed, it is illegal to imply redundancy or the sack will follow if a claim is made, whether by threats or other pressure, and any employer doing so could face additional legal action on that as well.
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 after an accident at work, 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, making a claim for compensation really is the only option, and a right, for most people.