Those who do voluntary work and similar good deeds are set to benefit from better legal protection against liability claims, according to a recent government announcement. Ministers stressed that people should not be put off of helping others by the risk of litigation.
The new law, which is expected to feature in the Queen’s Speech this Wednesday alongside other reforms such as pension changes, would affect volunteers carrying out work in England and Wales. It would encourage judges to look leniently on any such cases that get as far as the courtroom. In particular, judges will be given three factors to which they will be asked to give consideration:
- Were the person’s actions “for the benefit of society?”
- Did the person step in to provide help when an emergency arose?
- Was the person acting in a “generally responsible way?”
If the answers to any or all of the above questions are “yes,” this could work significantly in the person’s favour.
The Ministry of Justice have expressed concerns that the risk of litigation for negligence may be acting as a deterrent to those who may otherwise volunteer to help others and do good works. Research has suggested that around 47% of people who do choose to volunteer are nonetheless concerned over the risks posed by legal liability in the event of an accident or injury.
As an example, the Ministry of Justice pointed towards Street Pastors, who provide voluntary support to those taking part in the nightlife of various UK towns. According to the Ministry of Justice, concerns about health and safety have led to the removal of “dustpans and brushes from street pastors clearing up glass and offering support to town centre revellers.” There have also been claims that demands for public liability insurance, sometimes or values as high as £5 million, have led to the cancelling of community events such as picnics and street parties.
According to Justice Secretary Christ Grayling; “I want a society where common sense is the order of the day, and I believe this measure will help us get there.”
Under the new law, similar consideration will be given to employers when there are accidents or other issues in the workplace that are not actually the employers’ fault. The bill will “put the law more clearly on [their] side,” according to a statement. The Ministry of Justice went on to suggest that this would protect owners of small businesses from the actions of “irresponsible employees” when said business owners have themselves taken a “responsible approach to safety training and procedures.”