Everybody (with minor exceptions) owes everyone else a duty of care under Common Law. This means you have a duty of care to yourself, your employer, your colleagues, contractors and members of the public whom you interact in the context of your work. 

Requirements under an employer's duty of care are wide-ranging and may manifest themselves in many different ways, such as: 

  • Clearly defining jobs and undertaking risk assessments 
  • Ensuring a safe work environment
  • Providing adequate training and feedback on performance
  • Ensuring that staff do not work excessive hours 
  • Providing areas for rest and relaxation 
  • Protecting staff from bullying or harassment, either from colleagues or third parties 
  • Protecting staff from discrimination 
  • Providing communication channels for employees to raise concerns 
  • Consulting employees on issues which concern them

Key Legislation

  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) - This is the primary piece of legislation covering health and safety in the workplace. It places duty of care on employers to take "reasonably practicable" steps to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of all employees. 
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 - The Act stipulates that employers are obliged to carry out a "suitable and sufficient" assessment of risks to which employees are exposed at work. The Act also requires assessments to be carried out regarding the personal safety of any person who may be affected by a work activity, not just employees. If an organisation has more than 5 employees, then the assessment should be written down and recorded.  
  • Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 - The Act outlines the criminal liabilities of organisation when there has been a breach of health and safety, resulting in death. This Act introduced a new offence, so that companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter because of serious management failures resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care, i.e. where serious failures in the management of health and safety result in a fatality. 
  • Reporting of Injuries, Diseases, and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) - Under RIDDOR, employers must notify their enforcing authority in the event of an incident at work resulting in death, major injury, or incapacity to complete the normal work of a worker for more than seven days. This includes any act of violence committed against a person at work, provided that the violence is suffered or arises out of or in connection with work. 
  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997 - The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 makes it a criminal offence for anyone to pursue a course of conduct they know, or ought to know would cause another person to be alarmed, distressed or in fear of violence. This Act was amended in 2012 to include two new offences of stalking. 
  • Reporting of Injuries, Diseases, and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) - Under RIDDOR, employers must notify their enforcing authority in the event of an incident at work resulting in death, major injury, or incapacity to complete the normal work of a worker for more than seven days. This includes any act of violence committed against a person at work, provided that the violence is suffered or arises out of or in connection with work. 
  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997 - The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 makes it a criminal offence for anyone to pursue a course of conduct they know, or ought to know would cause another person to be alarmed, distressed or in fear of violence. This Act was amended in 2012 to include two new offences of stalking.
  • Equality Act 2010 - Under the Equality Act 2010, harassment is specified to be unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person. This also includes unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. It may be related to any personal characteristic of the individual (whether perceived or real), or by association (i.e. related to the individual's relationship or dealings with others who have that personal characteristic). 
  • Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 [a]; Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 [b] - These two regulations require employers to inform and consult with employees in good time, on matters relating to their health and safety. Employee representatives, either appointed by recognised trade unions under [a] or elected under [b] may make representations to their employer on matters affecting the health and safety of those they represent.