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Annie Hayes

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Corporate killing bill ‘does not go far enough’

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The draft corporate manslaughter bill introduced in the Queen’s Speech has been cautiously welcomed by employers’ associations – but does not go far enough, according to a major union.

The bill introduces a new offence for when death occurs as a result of management failure and will make it easier to prosecute a company, or other employing organisation, for a homicide offence. Under the present regime, the outcome of a case depends on whether or not a director or senior manager of a company for manslaughter can be found liable, requiring evidence of “gross negligence” (without which, there is no case).

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) cautiously welcomed the bill. Director General John Cridland commented, “This is a complicated issue and we are pleased the government is taking time over the legislation”, but cautioning, “The new law must be fair. The grossly negligent must be separated from genuinely responsible employers who do everything possible to ensure safety. We also want to see the government address the issue of Crown immunity. Any rules must apply equally to the public sector and business.”

For its part, the Union Amicus believes that as a draft, the bill falls far short of what is required to make employers accountable. Amicus General Secretary Derek Simpson said, “We had expected a corporate manslaughter bill in the Parliament just gone or at least before the election. We are also concerned about speculation that senior directors accountability will only extend to fines,” adding, “We know that the threat of prosecution and imprisonment is the main incentive for companies to improve their health and safety standards…We will not stop until companies are made accountable for their actions that result in deaths or injuries at work.”

The government has said that those organisations that have a conscientious attitude to safety issues should have nothing to fear from the bill, were it to become law.

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Annie Hayes

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