Q: We are a small family business but are planning to take on two, or maybe three workers to assist us over the next few months. As there has only ever been my wife and two daughters working in the business until now it has all been very casual. Will we need to create a formal health & safety policy when we take on new people?
A: Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) employers must do everything reasonably practicable to provide a safe and healthy workplace. The HSWA is supplemented by many statutes, regulations, codes of practice and guidance. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 set out what employers are required to do to manage health and safety under HSWA.
All businesses in the UK employing more than five people must create and publish a health & safety policy. It should contain three separate sections, the first being a statement outlining the general policy on health & safety at work, their commitment to it, what they aim to achieve through it and how their business complies with workplace H&S obligations. The second section should set out who is responsible for which aspects of the policy, for example who is responsible for conducting risk assessments. The third section should detail the practical details of what will be done to achieve the aims set out in the first section.
There is a legal obligation on employers to assess whether they have taken sufficient precautions to prevent damage and injury to their employees. If you fail to take reasonable care in any of the areas laid down, an employee may be able to make a number of claims against you, including resigning and claiming constructive unfair dismissal and personal injury. It is therefore in your best interests to ensure you get the H&S policy correct in every way. A lawyer who specialises in employment law can advise you.
This question has been answered by James Denton, a Solicitor with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter, please visit our website www.ghplegal.com and use the contact us form, or call us on: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194