Last reviewed 18 November 2020

Ruling in favour of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), the High Court has agreed that the Government has failed to transpose important EU health and safety protections into UK law.

The IWGB has announced that it has won a judicial review against the Government with regard to health and safety protections for gig economy and precarious workers.

In a judgment available at https://oldsquare.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IWUGB-Judgment-Final-for-hand-down-131120.pdf, Mr Justice Chamberlain ruled that the UK has failed properly to implement Article 8(4) and (5) of the Framework Directive and Article 3 of the PPE Directive with respect to limb (b) workers.

The Framework Directive is Directive 89/391/EC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the health and safety of workers at work; the PPE Directive is Directive 89/656/EC on the minimum health and safety requirements for the use by workers of personal protective equipment at the workplace; and limb (b) comes from s.230 (3) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 concerning the definition of a worker.

According to the IWGB, the judgment means that workers in the “gig economy” are entitled to the same EU-derived health and safety rights as employees.

Key rights include being provided with PPE by the business they are working for and having the right to stop work in response to serious and imminent danger. The UK Government must now urgently take steps to ensure that workers have the same protection as employees, the union has insisted.

It points out that one in 10 adults engage in gig economy work, which means “at least 4.7 million people working in the UK with little to no health and safety protections”.

IWGB General Secretary, Henry Chango Lopez, said: “We are delighted with this win for workers’ rights. In the midst of the pandemic, health and safety at work has never been more important. It is crucial that businesses know they must protect the health and safety of their workers and that the Government brings the criminal prosecutions necessary to enforce this law.”

Comment by Croner Associate Director Paul Holcroft

Employers already have a health and safety duty to their staff in the workplace, but this ruling emphasises the need for more.

While they do not yet have to take action, as the UK Government has so far not implemented any laws in response, employers should prepare for this to fall under their health and safety obligation to staff, as it is more than likely that this ruling will prompt the Government to take action.