All parties should commit to building on the UK’s reputation as a leader in health and safety

Posted On: 
14th November 2019

British Safety Council sets out its asks of the next government: maintain standards, protect workers and resource the regulator.

A mask on the statue of Lord Nelson in London, part of a protest to highlight air pollution in Britain.
Credit: 
PA Images

While Brexit is set to dominate this election, the British Safety Council wants all parties to commit to building on UK’s reputation as a leader in health and safety by creating a regulatory framework that ensures no-one is injured or falls ill at work. This week we have to the written party leaders, setting our manifesto asks.

We want an overarching commitment to maintain the highest standards of health, safety and wellbeing regulations and employee rights, ensuring that the UK continues to be a world leader in health, safety and wellbeing regulation and enforcement.

This follows claims by the Labour Party that the Conservatives will pursue a policy of deregulation after Brexit, diminishing workers’ rights – something that the Conservatives have strongly denied. The British Safety Council has been clear that Brexit must not be used as an excuse to lower standards.

We also have specific policy asks to support our Time to Breathe campaign, including a call for a legally-binding commitment to meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on particulate matter, something that the Environment Bill does not yet include. The campaign is asking government to recognise air pollution as an occupational health hazard. 

Earlier in the year the British Safety Council welcomed the government’s proposals for a right to request workplace modifications on health grounds. But we think that the government should go further.

We recommend that other reasons should be considered as the basis for the right to request modifications: for example, conditions (such as the menopause) which are not currently categorised as ill-health, or caring responsibilities. We are asking the next government to protect and enhance workers’ rights by enshrining in law the right of employees to request workplace modifications on health and other grounds. This will increase the likelihood that employees can stay in work and reduce the incidence of people leaving jobs because of ill-health or other reasons.

1.4 million women earn less than £118 a week and cannot claim sick pay when they are ill. We want the minimum earning threshold to be scrapped. It is estimated that pressure to attend work at all costs is costing UK businesses over £77 billion year. Working hours missed by the average employee as a result of illness has fallen and more staff are attending work while ill – this is termed as presenteeism. We also want the government to review their target of one million disabled people in employment by 2027, with a view to making it more ambitious.

Alongside our partner organisation Mates in Mind, we think there should be explicit duties on employers to safeguard the mental health of their workers and to reduce the risk of exposure to work-related stress.

The HSE defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them”. An employer’s failure to manage stress in the workplace could lead to lasting damage to an employee’s physical and mental health. So we want to amend the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999) to include explicit duties on employers to safeguard the mental health of their workers and reduce the risk of exposure to work-related stress.

Finally, the British Safety Council is asking the next government to commit to resourcing the Health and Safety Executive, local authorities and other regulatory bodies with adequate funding to ensure they proactively promote health, safety and wellbeing in the workplace and ensure compliance as a minimum standard.

You can see our manifesto asks in full HERE.