New sentencing guidance gives courts in England and Wales new powers to hand down far tougher penalties to employers found guilty of manslaughter through gross negligence – including up to 18 years jail time.
The weight of the sentences handed out will be defined by a wider assessment of company culture and attitude towards health and safety - not simply with respect to a single incident. Those companies who are unable to demonstrate their commitment to employee welfare facing the most severe sentences.
“It’s ultimately about culpability”, says Dave Broxton, MD Bohle. “If as an employer, you’ve shown total disregard for the health and safety of staff, the sentence handed down to you will be far more severe than that to a company where ‘the worst’ has happened despite its best efforts. The first point is that health and safety should be a priority for all of us, so that ‘the worst’ doesn’t happen, but if it does, as an employer, you need to be certain that you had the appropriate controls and systems in place to prevent an incident and that staff are fully trained and equipped.”
The sentencing body said that defendants found guilty in gross negligence cases - where, for example, an employer’s long-standing and serious disregard for the safety of employees, motivated by cost-cutting, has led to someone being killed – will see the most punitive sentences.