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Stigmas around reporting accidents at work

Photo by Lucian Alexe

Accidents at work are inevitable, regardless of where the blame lies. Employees in hazardous working conditions and certain industries face greater risks when it comes to turning up for work, but even seemingly harmless office environments can put staff in harm’s way.

The Labour Force Survey reported that around 565,000 workers sustained non-fatal injuries at work in 2021/22, whilst RIDDOR’s report which takes into account non-fatal injuries reported by employers was just 61,713. This raises potential questions over whether employees are reporting every workplace accident to employers and, if not, then why not?

It’s hard to say whether there is a stigma around reporting workplace accidents without looking into individual work environments, but the above figures may suggest that there is something to explore.

Why might employees be afraid to report accidents at work?

There are a few reasons why employees may feel hesitant to report accidents in their workplace. They may feel that reporting an issue will impact their relationship with their employer and colleagues, potentially leading to a negative work environment. Some may fear that this could have implications for their job security and progression opportunities. Others may fear that any claim brought against the company may have financial or reputational repercussions for the business which can have lasting damage. The underlying fear is likely to be that reporting accidents may fundamentally change their professional circumstance and this can be a risk seemingly not worth taking for many people.

Are there common misconceptions?

There are likely misconceptions that fuel these worries and fears about reporting accidents and injuries in the workplace. One could be that the employer is somehow financially responsible for paying compensation or perhaps it could be operationally damaging to the business, which typically isn’t the case.

All businesses with employees in the UK are legally required to take out employers’ liability insurance, which helps to pay compensation to workers if they fall ill or are injured because of their employment. So, the idea that a claim made by an employee is likely to seriously impact the business (depending on the severity and circumstances), is largely false.

What does the law say?

The law clearly states that employees are well within their rights to make accident claims against their employer if they feel like they were injured or made ill as a direct consequence of their employment. The law also supports the idea that employees can’t be discriminated against or treated differently because of their report or claim. With this in mind, employees should feel no hesitation in reporting incidents and making a claim if they feel like they deserve compensation – employers must be willing to change potential stigmas in workplaces to make this process less scrutinised.