Currently, firms that are threatened with prosecution after a worker is killed at work can avoid legal proceedings by going into administration and then resuming business under a similar trading name.
Speaking at the conference of the construction workers’ union, Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Ummuna said:
“Business has responsibilities, but Government does too. It is wrong that this Government is prepared to stand by while rogue businesses exploit loopholes in the law to evade justice when their malpractice leads to deaths at work.
“My parliamentary colleague and proud UCATT member, Luciana Berger, introduced a Bill to Parliament earlier this year to stop this. When workers are injured or killed at work, employers must be held accountable. They should not be able to get out of an investigation by claiming bankruptcy.
“The Bill would have stopped this but it didn’t pass. So I give this commitment today: the next Labour Government will legislate to prevent this abuse. It puts the lives of workers at risk. It is irresponsible. It is wrong. We will stop it.”
The announcement was welcomed by UCATT, which is running a campaign against the current practice of so-called phoenix firms to escape punishment when one of their employees is killed at work.
The union wants the Health and Safety Executive to be able to freeze a company’s assets as soon as a worker is killed and until investigations into the death are concluded. Similar powers exist in cases involving fraud and drug crimes.
UCATT General Secretary, Steve Murphy, said the law had to be changed in order to ensure safe working practices in construction.
“Bereaved families also deserve justice. It is bad enough for them to lose a loved one, but for the law to allow those responsible to escape justice is a grievous insult.”