UK gross negligence manslaughter sentences set to significantly increase

Beginning at the start of November 2018, employers in England and Wales charged with gross negligence manslaughter will face much stricter punishments. This includes life in prison for the most serious cases. The guidelines come amongst claims that offenders are getting off too lightly for serious offences.

An employer can be charged with gross negligence manslaughter if it is found that a breach of duty of care led to the victim’s death. The Sentencing Council gives the following example:

“An example could be where a death was caused by an employer’s long-standing and serious disregard for the safety of employees which was motivated by cost-cutting.”

The sentencing guidelines being introduced to judges are the first of their kind in the United Kingdom. While they come into force in November, they will also apply to existing cases that have not reached a conclusion by that date.

If an employer is found to have breached their duty of care, leading to an employee’s death, they will face several levels of prison time in relation to culpability. The minimum levels for suggested sentencing are as follows:

  • Low culpability – 2 years
  • Medium culpability – 4 years
  • High culpability – 8 years
  • Very high culpability – 12 years.

According to the Sentencing Council’s website, they expect sentencing lengths will increase in proportion to the severity of the offence regarding workplace incidents. This is expected to reflect the graveness of loss of life. Mr Justice Holroyde, a Sentencing Council Member, is quoted as saying,

“Manslaughter always involves the loss of a human life and no sentence can make up for that loss. In developing these guidelines, we have been keenly aware of the impact caused by these offences and so the guidelines aim to ensure sentencing that properly reflects both the culpability of the offender and the seriousness of the harm which has been caused.”

These new and stricter guidelines seriously impact employers and those responsible for worker safety. If charged, the employer responsible faces a prison sentence and criminal record.

How can employers protect themselves from breaching their duty of care?

Firstly, ensuring general Health & Safety compliance greatly reduces workplace risk. ISO and HSE guidance allows employers to check their compliance in relation to UK legislation. This includes executing general risk assessments which may reveal risks to employee safety. If the assessment reveals a threat of death, the employer is required to put systems and procedures in place to mitigate risk. Lone workers, who may be dealing with unknown clients and unknown/remote areas, are particularly vulnerable.

StaySafe provides an easy, quick to roll-out system for employers managing lone workers in various sectors. The app, which is available on Android, iOS and Windows, allows workers to send a “panic” when they have encountered an issue, whether that be a human threat or environmental harm. The system’s man-down function and impact detection allow for employers to monitor an employee’s wellbeing while on the job.

StaySafe provides employers with real-time updates on employee locations should an accident occur. It also allows regular communication between employee and employer through its session check-in feature.

Having a lone worker safety system in place helps mitigate risk thus reducing the likelihood of death in the workplace. Implementing StaySafe for your company’s lone workers not only protects them but also gives you peace of mind.

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