Employer Negligence: Know Your Rights

employee rights in Australia

What does your employer owe you?

An employer owes more to you than simply paying wages. Your employer has a duty to ensure the health and safety of every employee at work under work and safety laws. Additionally, your employer owes you what in law is called a duty of care. In short, a duty of care can be seen as a person holding a responsibility to look after you in some way. It does not take a stretch of logic or law to see how and why an employer ought to be held responsible for looking after you.

In fact, in many aspects of society a duty of care may be owed by someone. You doctor owes you a duty of care to look after your health and not to be negligent in that care. If your doctor breached that duty you could face serious health consequences. Your local supermarket owes you a duty of care: think of those “slippery when wet” signs – they are about supermarkets trying to meet their duty of care to see to it that you don’t injure yourself.

However, given more time is usually spent at work than in almost any other aspect of one’s life, the most important duty of care could be considered the duty owed by your employer to you. If you are hurt at work: physically or psychologically, your employer may be liable for being negligent. Your employer may be negligent for the fact of the injury occurring or perhaps because they did not respond appropriately and this aggravated your injury. As a consequence of negligence, your  employer may owe you damages or compensation for any injury you suffered.

So is your employer negligent?

Considerations for establishing negligence:

  • First there must be a duty of care owed to you by the person who was possibly negligent. This is present between an employer and employee; for instance, a duty to care for your health and safety at work.
  • Was that duty of care breached? This involves a consideration of what a reasonable employer would have done in the same set of circumstances. Ask, did your employer fail to do something that a reasonable employer may have done in that situation? The answer may seem obvious when the question is put this way but it is not always that easy to determine when applied to a specific circumstance.
  • Did harm occur as a result of that breach? The harm that did occur must be aforeseeable injury. That is, it involves considering the circumstances and the conduct of the employer and asking how likely is it that an ordinary person could’ve foreseen that the injury is one that could’ve resulted. For example, if an electrical cord was not put away and was left out for someone to trip over, then injuring oneself by tripping up on that cord is a foreseeable injury resulting from that circumstance. However, having a heart attack whilst putting away the electrical cord is an unforeseen injury. Your employer is considered negligent and held liable for the foreseen injuries only.

So if you have given these considerations some thought and the answers are affirmative to each of the above questions, then your employer may have been negligent in their duty of care to you. As a result, common law compensation may be available for the pain and suffering you have suffered and will suffer into the future and for the loss on income you have suffered and will suffer for the remainder of your work life.

The Victorian WorkCover Authority which manages most work related accidents through it’s insurance agents will provide statutory benefits for costs such as medical bills, income lost, and even a bit of lump sum compensation for a permanent injury.

However, to know if you are entitled to common law compensation, it is recommended that you seek professional legal advice on the matter. As experienced personal injury lawyers, we devote our whole careers to this area of law. You don’t have to worry about paying for the first consultation and you won’t have to pay at all if you don’t win.

Do not think the problem is not worth seeing a lawyer about – particularly if your employer has been negligent. You at least ought to know your rights in this area and make an informed decision about whether to pursue them. Employers who are negligent ought to be held accountable: for you and every employee who continues to work there.

An employer owes more to you than simply paying wages. Your employer has a duty to ensure the health and safety of every employee at work under work and safety laws. Additionally, your employer owes you what in law is called a duty of care. In short, a duty of care can be seen as a person holding a responsibility to look after you in some way. It does not take a stretch of logic or law to see how and why an employer ought to be held responsible for looking after you.

In fact, in many aspects of society a duty of care may be owed by someone. You doctor owes you a duty of care to look after your health and not to be negligent in that care. If your doctor breached that duty you could face serious health consequences. Your local supermarket owes you a duty of care: think of those “slippery when wet” signs – they are about supermarkets trying to meet their duty of care to see to it that you don’t injure yourself.

However, given more time is usually spent at work than in almost any other aspect of one’s life, the most important duty of care could be considered the duty owed by your employer to you. If you are hurt at work: physically or psychologically, your employer may be liable for being negligent. Your employer may be negligent for the fact of the injury occurring or perhaps because they did not respond appropriately and this aggravated your injury. As a consequence of negligence, your  employer may owe you damages or compensation for any injury you suffered.

So is your employer negligent?