A recent case, successfully resolved by Truth Legal, paints a shocking picture of an employer’s complete disregard for the well-being of one of their workers.

When Stuart sustained a vicious assault at work, he naturally expected his employer of 7 years to be supportive. What he actually encountered was a very different reaction.

The Background

Stuart worked for a specialist welding company. One day, whilst performing his duties, another employee approached Stuart and sprayed him in the face with an anti-spatter spray (a substance used in the welding process which contained corrosive chemicals). The attack was unprovoked and Stuart was not wearing his welding mask at the time.  The chemical spray quickly began corroding the soft tissue around his eyes and face. Stuart, in excruciating pain, sought help from a foreman and a manager, both of whom had witnessed the assault and were trained in first aid. However, they simply walked away, leaving Stuart to tend to his own injuries. When Stuart eventually found the first aid box, he was horrified to discover it was of little use as it contained no eyewash.

Abandoned by his employer – who owed a duty of care to him as one of its workers – and unable to help himself, Stuart called the police. When the police arrived and saw the severity of Stuart’s injuries, they immediately called for an ambulance.

Over the following three days, Stuart attended hospital several times to be assessed and treated for the chemical burns to his eyes and face.

Upon his return to work, Stuart’s employer began an investigation into the incident. However, it became apparent to him that his employer was far more concerned with Stuart justifying his call to the police than with his welfare. There was no mention of disciplinary action against his assailant, despite charges being brought by the police for grievous bodily harm.  Instead, Stuart’s employer was focused on its own position. The company’s main concerns appeared to be the involvement of the Health and Safety Executive, and the display of new signs and warnings.

With his well-being so clearly disregarded and recognising a feeling of hostility towards him, Stuart decided he could no longer work at the company. He resigned with immediate effect.

Truth Legal are Instructed

Stuart contacted Truth Legal and we were able to advise him on the potential claims he had against his former employer. These included: unfair dismissal; breach of Stuart’s contract of employment by their failure to provide first aid or take disciplinary action against Stuart’s attacker; and breach of health and safety regulations by neglecting to keep an employee safe at work.

Stuart had resigned and so was not dismissed by his employer. Therefore, in order to be successful in his unfair dismissal claim, he needed to prove that his resignation was a ‘constructive dismissal’. A constructive dismissal can occur when an employee leaves their job as a reaction to their employer’s conduct. A significant breach of the contract of employment by the employer is an example of conduct which could establish a worker’s resignation as constructive dismissal.

In Stuart’s case, a ‘dismissal’, in the legal sense of the term, could therefore be proved. However, it was also necessary to show that this dismissal was ‘unfair’. There are many reasons why a dismissal may be unfair in the eyes of the law. For Stuart, his resignation (or constructive dismissal) resulted from his employer’s reaction following the assault; in particular, Stuart’s phone call to the police. This phone call can be considered a ‘protected disclosure’ and a dismissal is automatically considered to be unfair if it results from an employee acting as a ‘whistle-blower’.

The Outcome

When Truth Legal put Stuart’s case forward, liability was quickly admitted by his former employer’s legal representatives. The case was settled for £8000 and there was no need for the matter to proceed to a trial. Stuart was very satisfied with the outcome.

Due to the strength of Stuart’s case, Truth Legal offered to conduct the claim on a No Win, No Fee Agreement. This meant that Stuart only had to pay for our expertise once the claim had been successful. His legal fees were capped at 35% of any compensation awarded. Had the case been unsuccessful, in the vast majority of circumstances, these legal fees would not have been payable.

Can We Help You?

If you have been assaulted at work, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free, no-obligation, consultation with one of our solicitors.

Please note that names have been changed in this case description to preserve the anonymity of the parties involved. Any contact you have with us will be treated in the strictest confidence.

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Catherine Reynolds
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