An interesting High Court judgement has been delivered in a case brought by the Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain (IWUGB) against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and others which extends protection from being subjected to detriments on health and safety grounds, and the right to be provided with PPE, to workers in the same way as employees. It was only a matter of time before such a case was decided but here we have it.

To summarise, the IWUGB argued that the UK legislation, which confines protection to employees only, had not properly implemented the EU Health and Safety Framework Directive, which requires that the same protections should be extended to workers and employees. The High Court agreed and has granted a declaration to that effect.  

What protections under the UK legislation were being challenged? 

  • Protection from detriment for leaving or refusing to return to the workplace in circumstances of serious and imminent danger, or for taking appropriate steps to protect yourself or other persons from the danger; and 
  • The right to be provided with PPE if the risks of an activity cannot otherwise be avoided.

Under the Directive, a worker includes any person employed by an employer including trainees and apprentices (but not domestic servants) who performs services for and under the direction of another person in return for remuneration. The workers, whom the claimant represented include taxi and private hire drivers and chauffeurs, bus and coach drivers, and van drivers. It has been reported that all these occupations have higher than average rates of death from Covid-19 and, the claimant argued, particular needs for the kinds of health and safety measures the Directives require.   

Why is this significant? The Government may choose to appeal this decision but if it does not, it will have to introduce new legislation to extend the protections under the UK legislation to include the broader category of workers. This will impact employers across all the sectors that we advise, with significant proportions of the workforce in public or customer-facing roles.