Friday, 14 September 2018 14:18

Avoiding Vicarious Liability

It’s not enough just to have polices in existence. Employers must stand by them and ensure that all staff know about them and are adequately trained in order to avoid any blame for wrongdoing falling on the organisation where an individual is at fault, something know as vicarious liability.

Take Equal Opportunities or Dignity at Work Policies for example. If an organisation can prove that they have taken reasonable steps to implement their policies in the workplace and amongst the workforce, then should a claim for discrimination arise, there is a case for it to be passed on to the offending employee

We know that under the Equalities Act, awards for discrimination against the protected characteristics of gender, sexual orientation, race, age religious belief, disability claims are unlimited. So it’s a good idea for a business to be in a position whereby they can prove that they have taken reasonable steps to implement policies that safeguard against discrimination.

If a company can show that they have created a non-discriminative organisational culture that is “lived and breathed” then acts of discrimination can be attributed to the offending employee. Any fines or awards would then also be attributed to the individual who be liable to pay.

In other words, employees cannot hide behind the company and could find themselves exposed to prosecution for offences perpetrated in the workplace.

An example of this might be an employee who is victimised by her boss because she is female and, feeling her position is untenable, chooses to leave but subsequently raises a constructive dismissal claim. The claim would initially be made against the company.

If it could be proved however that the correct training had been provided by the company to the offending employee and that otherwise, throughout the organisation a non-discriminative culture exists, the business would have a strong argument that it was not at fault.

If the employee who made the claim wins the case then the liability would rest on the shoulders of the victimising boss, for whom it could result in a very costly outcome.

Cases do exist where line managers have been personally fined so this outcome is more likely than you might think. The key of course is to make sure your Dignity at Work Training has taken place for all employees and has been recorded; and that relevant policies are up to date and staff have signed to say they have read and understand them.

For any help and support with your equal opportunities policies or to enquire about our dignity at work training, as usual you can call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 620 times Last modified on Friday, 14 September 2018 14:24


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