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The Increasing Reach of Employer’s Liability

Employers should be aware of the increasingly all-encompassing nature of employer’s liability, which now extends to almost any act by an employee which can be considered to be ‘closely and directly connected’ to their employment, even if they have been specifically warned against it.

The old approach did not include the same level of inevitability, as it was based on the question ‘was it something they were supposed to do’ (i.e. in the course of their employment).  This no longer applies.  The law of vicarious liability was described by Lord Phillips as being ‘on the move’ as early as 2012, and has now been extended to cover the actions of even independent contractors in Various Claimants v Barclays Bank (2017) EWHC 1929 (QB) .  Liability has even been found for incidents occurring entirely outside the workplace, in a social context, in Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd [2016] EWHC 3104 QB [2017]ICR 543.

It is no longer enough to claim that the act in question was a ‘frolic’ of the employee, nor that their actions were ‘not in the course of their employment’.  Employers need to be aware of the now strict, if not absolute, liability that they can face for the actions of their employers in a wide range of circumstances.

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