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Firefighters Attacked on Duty; Accidents at Work

As bonfire night approaches, we were deeply saddened to read in the local news last week that firefighters in Bradford had been attacked by vandals on three consecutive nights while they were trying to put out fires in the West Yorkshire area.  The vandals launched fireworks at the crews when they were answering emergency call outs.  It’s so sad to hear these brave individuals were attacked while simply trying to do their job.  The job firefighters do is, naturally, not without risk, but to have their lives endangered by mindless acts is deplorable.  Thankfully, none of the firefighters involved were injured but what if they were not so lucky?  Here we take a look at some considerations for employers when their employees are injured at work through no fault of their own.

  • Establish reasonable contact levels during absence.  This will be dependent upon the circumstances.  Weekly contact would be unreasonable to expect if someone is signed off for a long period of time, for example, three months but it would be reasonable for someone signed off for three to four weeks.
  • Determine sick pay entitlement.  This will be governed by an employee’s contractual entitlement.  If entitlement is to statutory sick pay only, there is no requirement to pay full pay as a result of accidents at work.  Employers can however use their discretion to pay full pay.
  • Don’t forget about employees on long term absence.  Check in with them every now and again, find out how their recovery is going and if there is anything you, as the employer, can do to assist.  Think about having a welfare meeting to meet face to face to get a full update.
  • Do not allow employees to return before their fit note expires.  Often employees will ask to come back early but it is a huge health and safety risk to allow employees to return before their GP has certified they are fit to return.  If the employee feels able to return, they must visit their GP to see if they will support them and get a replacement fit note with a new expiry date.
  • Consider how you can reintegrate employees into the workplace when they return.  Fit notes may recommend a phased return, amended duties, altered hours or adaptations.  You must seriously consider whether these recommendations can be accommodated and, if you cannot accommodate them, the employee remains unfit for work.
  • After an accident, employees may be left with long term health problems which may amount to a disability.  In these circumstances, employees will be protected against disability discrimination by the Equality Act 2010.  Where a possible disability arises, employers should obtain a medical report to fully understand the condition.
  • If a disability is likely, the employer will have a duty to make reasonable adjustments.  These may include (dependent on the circumstances) light duties, reduced hours, adaptations, additional training, redeployment, amended policies and procedures or pay protection.
  • If, after an initial lengthy period of absence, the employee is unlikely to return to work for the foreseeable future and there are no reasonable adjustments which could facilitate a return to work, the employer can consider dismissal on the grounds of capability (also known as dismissal on the grounds of ill-health) subject to following a fair procedure.

Accidents in the workplace can be difficult to address.  Employers should be mindful of balancing the requirements of the business with the needs of the employee.  At SCE Solicitors, we are experts in advising employers on employee absence.  If you have any absence queries, would like training on how to handle employee absence or you have any other employment law enquiries, please contact me on 0113 350 4030 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

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