Employer concerns halt ‘faulty’ death law

A new law introducing a corporate manslaughter charge against employers for
fatal work accidents has been postponed following eleventh-hour consultation.

Involuntary manslaughter legislation would have made it easier to hold
individual directors responsible for fatal workplace incidents, but its
omission from the Queen’s Speech last week has been welcomed by employers.

Gary Booton, head of health and safety at the Engineering Employers’
Federation, said the current wording in the proposed legislation is unfair.

"An offence is definitely appropriate. There’s no issue with the
objective it’s just how it’s delivered," he said. "We need a
fundamental rethink and it’s better to wait than go ahead with a faulty
law."

Sticking points for employers included Crown immunity and the legal process
following an accident, said Booton. For example, under the current wording,
directors could be dismissed before the case gets to court.

The corporate manslaughter legislation will now be delayed until at least
2004 after businesses highlighted their concerns during negotiations.

Janet Asherson, head of health and safety at the CBI, said she believed the
current proposals were unfair, but that industry and the Government should
continue with consultation to come up with a long-term solution.

The Queen’s Speech did introduce long-awaited reforms to the licensing laws,
which will enable bars to remain open for 24 hours.

By Ross Wigham

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