H&S exemption for self-employed gets the all-clear

The Queen’s speech has given the all-clear to long-awaited measures to exempt self-employed people, such as freelancers, from health and safety law where their work poses no risk of potential harm to others.

Welcoming the measures, due to take effect from October, business support groups agreed with the government that H&S rules were now set to become less burdensome for people who work for themselves.

In fact, while the UK’s Health & Safety framework will still apply to self-employed people whose work is "high-risk", such as those in construction and farming, about one million freelancers and traders doing "'low-risk" jobs are estimated to benefit from the exemption. Office-based freelancers are likely to be among the main beneficiaries.

But unions remain unconvinced, saying that taking H&S away from a demographic that is more than twice as likely as employees to be killed at work will not help businesses - or the economy, to grow.

“It's a recipe for confusion,” the TUC said. “Many people will now be unsure about their rights and responsibilities. The result is likely to be an increase in workplace accidents.”

The Forum of Private Business has countered, arguing that relaxing the H&S regime will reduce the instances of people playing the “blame game,” in line with David Cameron, prime minster, who has spoken about a “culture of fear” around the rules.

The FPB added: “We hope this new approach can help rebuild and restore faith and trust in workplace health and safety, while at the same time freeing business to get on with trading during difficult economic times.”

 

9th May 2013

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