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Legislation called the Deregulation Act became law on 1st October 2015, impacting the health and safety obligations of self-employed workers and contractors.
The previous Health and Safety at Work Act imposed a general duty on all self-employed people to protect themselves and others from risk to their health and safety, regardless of the type of activity the self-employed person undertook and the risks this created.
The government changed the law so that only self-employed people who conduct certain work (or who have employees) have a duty under Health and Safety Laws to protect themselves and others from risk to health and safety. The government believed that by exempting those self-employed people from health and safety duties, who work in low-risk occupations, that represent no risk to other people, they’d “free around one million people from red tape without impacting on health and safety outcomes”.
The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health lobbied against the bill, because of concerns that the exemption could lead to confusion, a decline in standards and an increase in the risk of injury or illness at work. The TUC also opposed the bill, as did Unite.
The Deregulation Bill exempts the self-employed from health and safety laws/obligations if they have no employees, unless they undertake ‘prescribed activities’, which include work with or on:
The ‘explanatory note’ in the legislation says that: “Section 3 (2) of The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 was amended by the Deregulation Act 2015 to limit the scope of the general duty under the section. Only those self-employed persons who conduct undertakings of a prescribed description will have an obligation to conduct their undertaking in such a way as to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, they themselves and other persons who may be affected thereby are not exposed to risks to their health and safety”.
Therefore, self-employed persons (unless you work in prescribed activities, or have employees – if you’re self-employed but have employees you still have a duty in respect of these employees’ health and safety) no longer need to:
Self-employed workers are exempt from reporting under the RIDDOR legislation.
The Health and Safety Executive website now has a section for self-employed workers with guidance on factors to take into account when making a judgement whether the law applies to you or not.
If you are an Employer and need ongoing professional help with any staff/freelance issues then talk to Lesley at The HR Kiosk – a Human Resources Consultancy for small businesses – our fees are low to reflect the pressures on small businesses and you can hire us for as much time as you need.
Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.