Self-employed set for health and safety exemption

Self-employed people should be exempt from all health and safety rules, either when their business activity poses no threat to others - or where they work in low-risk occupations.

Outlining the exemption, the government said it would change the law to “remove health and safety burdens” from those self-employed whose activities represent “no risk” to other people.

The move will bring Britain in line with other European countries, where a “more proportionate approach” to applying ‘H&S’ law to the self-employed, such as freelancers, is taken.

The exemption will also remove 1m people from red tape, added the government in accepting proposals from the Lofstedt review, without, it claimed, “impacting on health and safety outcomes.”

It continued: “In practice, we do not expect enforcement agencies to carry out many visits to self-employed people involved in low risk activities following the introduction of new inspection regime announced in March 2011.

“However, it is clear that the fear of inspection and possible prosecution for minor transgressions of the law is a cause of unnecessary concern for the self-employed and - where the individual is carrying low risk activity such as office-type work - delivers no real benefit to the wider population.”

Online forums show some HR managers appear unconvinced, even though the government says the law will continue to apply where a self-employed person’s activities could “pose a risk to themselves or others,” such as in the building trades.

Bosses of the Trade Union Congress are also concerned: “[Self-employed workers] who often work in the most dangerous of jobs, are already much more likely to be killed or injured. There is little doubt that removing the self-employed from the [H&S] regulations will increase the risk of illness and injury.”

The union also believes the exemption could spark a rise in the number of bogus self-employed workers, particularly in the construction trades.


19th December 2011

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