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Short Answer:

Generally, employers are liable for the acts of employees due to something called “vicarious liability.”

There can be exceptions such as if the act had no connection with the employment but, more often, employers are legally responsible for the actions of employees.

    • Case Study

      £120,000 for worker injured following an assault at work by a colleague

      Our team recently acted on behalf of Ms V who sustained injury at work, when she was assaulted by her male colleague. Our client’s assailant undertook a form of martial arts manoeuvre on her during which she was flipped over and thrown to the ground. Our client sustained a serious leg injury requiring surgery and suffered psychological injury.

      Liability was accepted by the defendant insurers and medical evidence was obtained. The case was issued at court and a settlement was reached in the sum of £120,000.
      View all success stories

The injured worker may also, or as an alternative, have a Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority claim which is a Government non-fault compensation scheme for the victims of crime, which includes workplace assaults.

Detailed Answer:

Everybody should expect to be kept safe from danger and harm whilst at work. This includes being kept safe from both physical and emotional harm that may be inflicted upon them through a deliberate act of violence.

A workplace assault can have a long-term impact upon a persons physical and psychological well-being. A report published by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that there were 688,000 incidents of violence at work in 2019/2020, including threats and physical assault. The report found that the occupations with the highest risk of violence towards workers were:

1. Protective Services (including police, prison officer, security guard, firefighter, paramedic,
2. Healthcare Professionals
3. Care Worker
4. Teaching and Educational Professionals

There are strict duties imposed on employers aimed at ensuring employees are protected from deliberate acts of violence inflicted upon them by a colleague, customer, service-user, patient or a member of the public.

An employer may be liable for deliberate injuries caused to an employee if the employer has failed to take reasonable steps to minimise the risk of such an incident occurring.

An employer must carry out risk assessments to identify any risk of violence towards their workers and, if a risk is identified, implement effective control measures to eliminate or reduce that risk.

The HSE recommends a number of ways in which an employer can identify the risk of violence towards their workers, including:

  • Asking workers about their experiences and whether they have experienced aggression or violence in the workplace.
  • Observing the workplace environment and procedures to asking whether these give rise to any concerns regarding the possibility of violence.
  • Looking back through incident records relating to violence in the workplace
  • Being aware of patterns of violence linked to certain work situations.
  • Once a risk has been identified, the employer must then implement appropriate preventative measures aimed at either eliminating the risk entirely or controlling the risk so that harm is unlikely to occur.

Examples of preventative measures which can be implemented include:

  • The arrangement of the workplace (space and layout).
  • Security measures such as CCTV, alarm systems or the use of a security officer.
  • Emphasising a zero-tolerance approach towards violence against workers through signage and visible displays.
  • Training of employees (on skills such as communication, recognising warnings signs, de-escalation techniques, incident reporting procedures, etc).
  • Avoiding lone-working in circumstances where this increases the risk of violence.

An employer is expected to implement appropriate control measures aimed at reducing the risk of violence so far as ‘reasonably practicable’. This involves balancing the risk of violence against the nature of the occupation and the cost, time and practicality of implementing such measures.

An employer is likely to be liable for an injury inflicted upon an employee resulting from a deliberate assault in circumstances where:

1. They have failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment and, had an adequate risk assessment been carried out, the risk of violence/injury would have been identified and could have been eliminated or reduced through the implementation of reasonable preventative measures.

2. They have carried out a risk assessment and identified a risk of violence/injury but have failed to identify or implement effective preventatives measures to eliminate or reduce the risk so far as ‘reasonably practicable’.

Whether a claim is successful or not usually depends upon the knowledge of the employer (both what the employer knew and what they ought to have known) and the reasonableness of their actions prior to the assault occurring.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority Claims

This is a no-fault Government compensation scheme for the victims of crime.  Of course, assaults are crimes and so many injured workers are also eligible to make such a claim.  The two claims link together i.e. the CICA need to be aware of any civil claim and can reduce the compensation they award to take into other compensation, to avoid compensating twice for the same injury.

Sometimes people do not have a valid civil claim so the CICA route is then the only means of recovering compensation.  However, CICA compensation figures tend to be lower those in civil claims so it is crucial that all possibilities of a claim against the employer are explored first.

Why Aston Knight?

Our main area of specialism is work-related injuries and we have recovered millions of pounds for workers told by other law firms, including national firms, that they did not have a case. We pride ourselves on our excellent success record and client care standards.

If you have suffered an injury (either physical or psychological) following an assault in the workplace and you would like a free consultation to discuss your options, please call Aston Knight Solicitors today on 0161 399 1231 or click the ‘Contact’ button above to submit an online enquiry and one of our dedicated Solicitors will contact you to discuss your claim further.

Andrew Thompson (Senior Solicitor)

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