Employer's duty of care

Employers have a duty of care to their employees and must take all reasonable steps to protect their health, safety and well-being.  They must do everything that is reasonable in the circumstances to keep their employees safe from harm.  They also have a moral and ethical duty not to cause, or fail to prevent, physical or psychological injury.

Under their duty of care, employers may have to:

  • ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, a safe work environment, and
  • provide adequate training so that employees can safely carry out their designated role. 

Employees also have a responsibility to take reasonable care for their own health and safety at work.  For example, they should be able to refuse to do work that would be unsafe for them, without fearing disciplinary action.  An employee also has a duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of other employees who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work.

In the context of raising concerns, this means that the organisation should have systems in place to protect from detriment anyone who raises a concern. 

If it becomes clear that a person who has raised a concern is being (or may be) treated unfairly or victimised, managers must take action.  This may include informal action or formal disciplinary procedures.  In most cases, removing the person who has raised a concern from their workplace, either by relocating or suspending them, is not an appropriate response, as this reinforces the attitude that it is risky to raise concerns and shows that the organisation does not support people to speak up.

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Updated: July 20, 2021