Going to work may not always be a fun thing to do, with 85% of employees hating their job, but it is a necessity. And while many people may not particularly like their job, they certainly should not be fearful of an assault while they are there.
A staggering 620,000 incidents of violence at work were reported in 2016/17. The actual unreported amount is thought to be considerably higher. Yet many victims of assault at work often feel alone, that they are somehow in the wrong, and that they do not know where to turn.
What is an assault in the workplace?
An assault can be either physical or verbal and carried out by a client, patient or customer. However it could also be by someone with a link to the company, such as a colleague, delivery or maintenance worker or even an employee’s relative. Someone who has no legitimate link to the company – such as a burglar, could also commit an assault at work.
Every employer has a duty to protect his or her staff from being harassed or assaulted in the workplace or at any work specific occasions, such as a work party or an event off the work premises. If an employee feels they have been harassed at work they must report it to their employers who will then take steps to ensure the harassment stops. If the harassment continues – or leads to an assault – they may be able to make an employment tribunal claim. However they must be able to prove that their employer did not take relevant steps to prevent or stop harassment or assault in the workplace.
The stages of reporting an assault
If you have a client coming to you with a potential assault at work claim you need to make sure they have followed the relevant steps first. Have they reported the incident to their manager and the HR department? Did the victim have to seek medical attention due to injuries sustained during the incident? Often in these situations the victim will be in a “fight-or-flight” response and so the level of injury may not seem apparent until later on. If they are wanting to make a claim they will need to see a medical professional who will compile a medical report which is often the most important piece of evidence in any personal injury claim.
There are several key items that a victim of a workplace assault must collate to ensure they can process a claim. As their solicitor, you must make sure they have these before continuing further.
Were there any witnesses to the assault? If so does the claimant have any details including a witness statement and contact details? This information will not only help the victim if they are trying to make a case, but will also be required if there is any work disciplinary hearings.
Has the assault been reported to the police? If a stranger assaults a person this is one of the first things people may do, but what if you they actually know the assailant? The main thing to remember is that if they have assaulted someone then they could assault someone else, so reporting the matter to the police could prevent another person being attacked. A police report is also an important piece of a victim’s case should they decide to pursue a compensation claim. If they have not reported it to the police they should do so as soon as possible.
If your client decides to pursue a compensation claim, whether it is against the assailant or their employer, you need to let them know they need to keep a record of any costs accrued because of their injuries. These will be classed as special damages and there will need to be a record of every expense that has been claimed for.
Another key piece of evidence is a record of any appointments that have been made as a result of the assault. Recommend that your client maintains a diary of any appointments as well as any symptoms they may have. Many people suffer mental anguish as a result from an assault at work so they should keep a record of how they are feeling as well as any medication they may have to take.
The majority of victims of an assault in the workplace do not pursue claims as they fear they may lose their job if they claim against their employer. All employers are required by law to provide a healthy and safe environment and if they have failed a member of staff, they will be aware that they need to compensate them. As employers are required to have insurance the costs they may have to pay will not affect the company. It is important that your clients are aware of this and that if they do find themselves losing their job because they made a claim they would then have grounds for an unfair dismissal claim, something that you can also assist them with.
Types of claims available
Make sure you make your client aware of the several different claims that can be made in an assault at work claim. The victim may have one, or more, of the following:
- Mental suffering and injuries – if they have received counselling due to the assault, or any type of mental trauma.
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of income – many employees nowadays get paid on an hourly basis so if the victim is unable to work due to their injuries they can claim this under special damages, although there must be proof.
- Care costs
- Medical costs
- Adapting their home – in some cases the victim may have to adapt their home due to their injuries being extremely damaging.
- Travel costs
- Childcare costs
- Loss of amenity – this covers any loss of quality of life that may have been suffered.
If someone has been assaulted at work and wish to make a claim their first step will be to a legal expert who will ascertain whether they have a case or not. If you are unsure about the criteria used to assess a potential case, more advice in this area is available at LegalHelpline.co.uk. Some companies may charge an up front fee which can cause more financial difficulties at an already stressful time although there are several companies that provide Conditional Fee Agreements.
This means the client will not have to part with any money up front as the legal expert will take their fee from any payment the court awards. More commonly known as “no win no fee” arrangements, the standard of service is usually higher as the legal expert’s fee will be influenced by the amount of compensation awarded.