Firms could face steep fines for corporate manslaughterEmployers found guilty of corporate manslaughter are set to face “punitive” fines which could cost them in excess of £500,000, it has been reported. 

According to the Financial Times, the Sentencing Guidelines Council has claimed fines for such cases should not fall below this mark and could set businesses back millions of pounds. 

From this week, all firms found guilty of manslaughter in court will have the fines imposed on them. 

This applies even if the case occurred years ago, the publication warns. 

The council is also recommending any health and safety breaches which lead to a fatality should see a fine of upwards from £100,000 imposed. 

A further part of the penalty will include making it a recommendation that the guilty firm publishes details of the incident. 

Tim Hill, partner at law firm Eversheds, told the news provider that as employers could now face up to two years in prison if found guilty of such a corporate crime, “organisations should now be in no doubt that demonstrating a strong health and safety culture is as strategically vital as dealing with any other business risk”. 

Yet the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), which was consulted on the new guidelines, believes an opportunity has been missed to ensure punishments have equal economic impact across organisations of different size and to emphasise the need for cultural change in many convicted organisations. 

“We believe using percentage of annual turnover (or equivalent) in setting fines would have helped ensure convicted organisations of different sizes felt the financial impact more equally,” said IOSH policy and technical director Richard Jones. 

“Remedial orders should also address the vital need for deep-seated cultural issues to be tackled where these have contributed to the offence,” he added. 

“Based on regulator guidance, we say this could include measures such as compulsory training or retraining in health and safety management for directors and senior managers, appropriate use of behavioural safety programmes, the introduction of third-party audit and access to competent health and safety advice.” 
IOSH also called for: 

• Absolute minimum fine levels for corporate manslaughter convictions
• Aggravating factors to include failure to heed professional health and safety advice, co-operate with authorities or remedy deficiencies
• Having a good health and safety record should be no mitigation in corporate manslaughter, given the gross breach that has occurred
• Clarity over ‘a different approach’ to setting fines in the public sector
• Corporate manslaughter convictions to affect Comprehensive Area Assessments.