We have studied following topics:
- Studying Law
- The Courts and Legal Personnel
- NO SEMINARS – READING WEEK
- Sources of English Law
- Tort Law – Negligence
- Contractual Obligations – Offer and Acceptance
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Every employee has the right to safety. This must be ensured by employers so that employees do not suffer stress and illness as a result of working at a specific establishment. In recent times, there have been many court suits related to psychiatric illness. However, it has been and it is still difficult to embrace the whole idea of people suffering psychological torture. There is difficulty as well on how to address the notion of psychiatric illness and how this could be tackled with to avoid floodgates in court suits on the subject (Prosser & Keeton 2004). Some say that people owe those around them a duty of care. The truth of this statement is yet to be established as there should be factors to be considered before holding someone liable in breach of the duty of care. Imposing a duty of care on people unknown to each other would sound unfair and misinformed. The foregoing thus calls for a criticism of the concept of psychiatric illness and liability whatsoever that arises there-from.
Sources of Law
The term sources of law relates to where the rules originate from. What dictates what the law should be may also be a source of law. The law my come from the Constitution. In many countries, the constitution is considered the mother of all the laws of the respective land. Other laws borrow from the main body of law-the constitution (Chemerinsky 2011). If there is any conflict between the Constitution and any other law then the Constitution will and has always taken precedence.
Common law is also another source of laws. Common law is the laws that were developed through the observation of the customs of the English people and developed through judicial decisions. In most cases where there is no law providing for any remedy, then the common law would be looked upon for a solution.
Legislation is another source of law. These are laws made by Parliament- the legislative arm of a democratic state. Legislations have to pass through set procedures and would in most cases become law upon being assented to by the authorized person, the head of state in most cases. Apart from the Constitution and legislation we have case law as a source of law. Case law is the law developed by courts when interpreting the statutes passed by Parliament. Case law may at times be referred to as judge-made law.
Tort Law and Negligence
The law of torts covers the relationship between persons (Ratanlal and Dhirajlal 2013). It is the law that seeks to give remedy for wrongs committed by persons against their neighbors or anyone defined by the law. Through the law of torts the aggrieved parties can get damages for injury suffered as a result of the tortuous acts of those they interact with on daily basis. Tort law also covers contractual relationship between parties (Abraham 2012). Through it, parties to a contract can enforce their civil rights and those accused of violating the civil laws would be liable for either damages or any other remedy provided by the Courts of Law (Franklin & Cardi 2008).
Negligence on the other side is the failure to act in a way that any reasonable person would have acted if faced by the same circumstances (Blyth vs. Birmingham Waterworks 1856). Negligence mostly arises out of failure to act as required. For instance, a driver is supposed drive carefully knowing that he might cause injuries to others if he drove recklessly. Liability in negligence arises if the driver does not take reasonable measures to ensure he drives safely. Also related to this is the test for reasonableness (Bolitho vs. City & Hackney Health Authority 1997).
In employment relations, there has to be a contract for employment between the alleged employer and employee. Through the offer and acceptance of the rights and duties arising from employment, a contractual relationship arises and binds the parties to that contract (Diamond & Levine 2013). One of the duties owed to each other is the duty of care. The employer owes the employee a duty of care, to protect the employee by making the working environment conducive for the work required. Similarly, the employee owes the employer the duty to perform every part of the job carefully and as highlighted in the contract of employment.
Duty of care
Duty of care may be defined as taking responsibility for those around you in a situation where those people rely on you. In determining if there is a duty of care owed some factors must be considered. There has to be a relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant (Ranchhodas & Keshavlal 2003). Some sought of proximity would be vital if established before deciding where liability arises. Relying or depending on someone for some shielding would be important in establishing a duty of care. In the same direction, it would be necessary to establish if the duty of care is in fact owed (Hodgson & Lewthwaite., 2012). It is after this that the element of breaching such a duty of care owed to another that some liability may be imposed.
Liability Of Employers For Psychiatric Illness Of Employees.
Issues concerning post traumatic stress can be traced to 1897 (Wilkinson vs. Downton) Employers are in most cases profits-oriented. All they seem to care about is the huge profits their companies should make. They therefore care less about the welfare of the employees and subject employees to pressure to be productive despite most instances of poor working conditions. This causes the workforce to be exposed to potentially bad risks of physical health and mental torture. In view of the foregoing, there has to be a regulatory framework to provide for psychiatry related illness experienced by employees most specifically as a consequence of working under stressful environments (Vincent 2009, p 45).
Failure in adhering to the duty of care was much covered in the death of a man in Northumberland. The man’s employers had ignored the safety requirements set by the law. Managers must not be so relaxed when the safety of employees is the subject. Installation of basic safety measures should be a priority to any employer. (Murphy & Cooper 2000) The families of such employees who die while at work due to poor working environment are left with no option but to sue for the negligence. In-spite of suing, it is evident that no monetary compensation can equilibrate the life lost. For lawyers who argued for the availability of negligent infliction of stress they could not make it as they were told to leave lawmaking to legislature (Piresferreira v. Ayotte).
Lives lost or psychological trauma as a result of employment has to be incorporated to cater for the mental health of the employees. Employees should be compensated heavily. We should see all workers that suffer psychological stress as a result of poor working conditions get compensated as was the case in the law enforcement officers in Hillsborough (Diamond & Levine 2013).
A shift from the unfair compensation for injuries sustained at work only should be embraced. Bodily injuries are not independent from the overall functioning of the body system and should not be the only basis for compensation (Edwards, Edwards & Wells 2011). Breaking ones arm does not only render the injured disabled but it also affects injured persons mentally as they would have to find a way to start living without an arm. This tortures a person mentally and has to be considered when awarding damages (The American Law Institute 2013).
In conclusion, the rules and laws protecting the employees from work related injuries should shift from the old rules that only covered employees against physical bodily injuries to provide for psychiatric illness suffered as a result of poor working conditions. There has to be stricter rules and penalties for employers who violate safety policies required by the law as relaxing on this matter would mean continued neglect of employees’ rights.
Chemerinsky, E (2011), Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies. 4th Edition
Ranchhodas, R & Keshavlal, D (2003), English And Indian Law of Torts. Cornell University Library.
Vincent, A (2009), Death in the Work Place; Management Services.
Murphy, L R & Cooper, C L (2000), Health and Productive Work: An International Perspective. London. Taylor & Francis.
Blyth vs. Birmingham Waterworks (1856). Exchequer.
Bolitho v City & Hackney Health Authority . HL.
Hodgson, J. & Lewthwaite, J (2012), Tort Law. Oxford University Press.
Edwards, L, Edwards, J & Wells P (2011), Tort Law, 5th Edition.
Wilkinson v. Downton.  2QB 57.
Piresferreira v. Ayotte, 2010 ONCA 384.
Prosser, W & Keeton, P (2004), Prosser and Keeton on Torts. 5th Edition.
Franklin, A & Cardi J (2008), Gilbert Law Summaries on Torts. 24th Edition, Paperback.
Abraham, S (2012), The Forms and Functions of Tort Law. 4th Edition (Concepts and Insights Series); Paperback.
Diamond, L & Levine, C (2013), Understanding Torts. Paperback.
The American Law Institute, (2013), A Concise Restatement of Torts, (American Law Institute.)
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