Workers sacked over safety concerns
Hundreds of workers are fired every year for objecting to unsafe working conditions, and the law is failing to stop negligent bosses showing them the door.
Those are the findings of a report, In the firing line, published in the latest issue of Hazards magazine.
In the five years since 1999, the report says, more than 1,500 workers have been forced out of their jobs for raising safety concerns with their employers.
Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, workers have a right to refuse to do dangerous work. But an employer found guilty of unfair dismissal on safety grounds may be fined as little as £3,800, so many bosses find it cheaper to sack workers than make improvements."It shouldn't be a firing offence to object to unsafe work," said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said. "Workers should not be placed in the situation where they are forced to choose between risking their job or risking their personal health and safety. We need a legal system that protects safety whistleblowers, not rewards them with their cards."
The problem is probably far worse than the statistics show. Unionised workers get advice and representation and are more likely to get their job back, but those who aren't in a union stand little chance of redress.
Unions wants the government to introduce a nationwide system of roving safety reps, more funds for official safety inspections and enforcement, a new right for reps to issue "provisional improvement notices", and the ability for employment tribunals to reinstate workers who have been unfairly dismissed after raising safety issues.
The full Hazards article can be found at www.hazards.org/safetyreps/rights.htm For subscription inquiries or orders, call Jawad Qasrawi on 0114 235 2074.