Companies need to heed a tough warning

John Mehtam

John Mehtam

Email Click to email
Phone 01952 566928

Companies could be more liable than ever for the behaviour of their employees following a landmark legal ruling, a Shropshire employment law expert has warned.

The Supreme Court found that supermarket chain Morrisons was liable for the actions of a worker who punched and kicked a man on one of its petrol station forecourts.

And John Mehtam, the employment law specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said: “This is a wake-up call to all employers. It means that companies will find it much more difficult to avoid legally binding liability for the actions of their staff during working hours.”

According to court documents, Amjid Khan was working at a Morrisons petrol station in Birmingham in 2008 when he punched and kicked Ahmed Mohamud. Mr Mohamud died six years later of an illness not related to the incident, and his family continued his legal fight.

Morrisons had sacked Mr Khan and agreed to pay damages, but the Supreme Court has now overturned a previous Court of Appeal ruling and decided that the supermarket group is liable for Mr Khan's actions.

Mr Mehtam said the case hinged on the definition of ‘vicarious liability’ - where someone is held responsible for the actions or omissions of another person. In the workplace, an employer can be liable for the acts or omissions of its employees, provided it can be shown that they took place in the course of their employment.

He said: “There is no doubt that this ruling will make it easier for successful claims of this kind against companies – even if the actions of staff were neither sanctioned, nor supported, by their managers.

“It does not amount to a change in the law, but is most certainly a change in the way that ‘vicarious liability’ cases will be interpreted by the courts.”

Mr Mehtam added: “Previously, it was thought that an employer would only be liable for an assault if it took place while carrying out a task which was part of their working contract.

“That has all changed. Now, employers can clearly be held liable for any form of criminal act carried out by their staff – whether they are directly linked to their job, or not.”

Testimonials

  • Martin Kaye

    Martin Kaye have provided advice in some highly complex HR matters and they continue to provide our day to day HR advice through their "ALPHA" HR scheme. They offer a very commercial and pragmatic approach and we have always been impressed by the level of service. The members of staff are approachable and easy to deal with.

    Eurofilms Extrusion Ltd

  • Martin Kaye

    Martin Kaye have provided us with employment and HR advice for several years and we have been very pleased with the level of service and quality of advice provided. We have no hesitation in recommending the team to any organisation which wishes to manage its employment related enquiries.

    D Wauchope, Company Secretary - McPhillips (Wellington) Ltd

  • Martin Kaye

    As a large employer of cleaning personnel, we require expert and prompt employment related advice. Martin Kaye's "ALPHA" service provides this in a clear and robust manner. We have been extremely impressed with the service and would thoroughly recommend them to any employer requiring expert HR & employment support.

    J Conry, Chairman - JPC Cleaning

  • Martin Kaye

    It is important for us to create a close relationship with our advisors. Martin Kaye's "ALPHA" HR service is excellent. It enables us to work closely with our lawyers particularly in the complex area of employment law.

    Johnny Hobeika, Operations Manager - Sanita (UK) Ltd

  • Martin Kaye

    ALPHA is an excellent, reliable, professional service which is an integrated part of our business that we could not do without.  This service is part of our structure and provides staff and business with the professional HR Support it requires - Invaluable

    Wendy Cox - Genvolt

Martin Kaye are rated 4.5 out of 5 based on 21 testimonials.