Violence at Work (UK)

When to withdraw

Fortitude varies from person to person and so does ability to cope with other people's violent behaviour. Where some people would feel unsafe and vulnerable others may not. This means uncertainty about when refusing to do a job task may be the 'right thing' for an employee to do.

Helpfully, S44.1.(d) Employment Rights Act 1996 provides a clear definition of the circumstances in which employees are expected to withdraw:

"... circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent and which they could not reasonably have been expected to avert."

S44 also makes it clear that the legal expectation of employees is that they should stay away from work altogether if that is what is required to remain safe and not return to work until the danger has gone.

How will an employee's actions will be judged?

S44.1.(d) Employment Rights Act 1996 confirms that the action taken by employees to protect themselves will be judged:

" .... by reference to all the circumstances including, in particular, his (the employee) knowledge and the facilities and advice available to him at the time."

In other words, it is very much up to the employee to decide when it would be best to withdraw.


Don't forefeit your compensation!

The Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945 provides that where any person suffers damage as the result of his own fault and partly of the fault of any other person or persons, a claim in respect of that damage shall not be defeated by reason of the fault of the person suffering the damage, but the damages recoverable in respect thereof shall be reduced to such an extent as the court thinks just and equitable having regard to the claimant's s share in the responsibility for the damage.

In other words, if you perform work that is recognisably unsafe and you get hurt, any compensation that you may have been in line for may be reduced in proportion to how significantly your own actions contributed to the severity of the outcome.