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Should employers really be held to account in cases of vicarious liability?

Employment lawyers and business alike are awaiting a Supreme Court ruling, which is expected in February, regarding whether or not one of the largest UK banks should be liable for the acts of a doctor hired to carry out pre-employment medical checks. 126 individuals claimed that the doctor had sexually assaulted them and that the bank should be held vicariously liable for his actions. To date, the courts have held the bank liable for the doctor’s actions and the final decision now rests with the Supreme Court.

In the employment context, vicarious liability refers to a situation in which an employer is held responsible for the acts (or omissions) of its workers. If the Supreme Court agrees with previous rulings in the above case, it will be more important than ever before for employers to take positive steps to reduce the risk of being liable for the actions of its workers.

Employer is held responsible for the acts (or omissions) of its workers.

Employers could seek to avoid liability if they can establish that all reasonable steps to prevent the alleged act or omission have been taken – but what does this mean in practical terms? Avoiding liability is not a straightforward exercise, however, at the very least employers should ensure they implement robust policies governing the conduct of their workers, enforce clear workplace standards and provide regular training to ensure that workers are aware of what is, and is not, acceptable conduct.

If you have any concerns or would like a review of your current policies or training programmes, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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