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employer's liabilitya convenient term to group together those aspects of the law, mainly the law of tort or delict or contract, relating to the liability of the employer to his work force. More usually, it is applied narrowly to the liability in tort to take reasonable care for the employee's safety. At one time, for reasons that no longer apply, it was important to define this closely, and it was said to be a threefold duty comprising the provision of safe plant and equipment, a duty to provide competent fellow employees and a duty to provide a safe system of work. Now there is an overall duty to take care, even of the employee's mental health. The term, however, also applies quite legitimately to statutory protection by way of criminal penalties or provisions from which a case can be based upon statutory duty.
Thus, beginning with the Employer's Liability Act 1880 and through to the present there are many provisions that provide protection for employees or an even wider class of workers. The detail of the law is increasingly set by European directives incorporated into UK law. Many of these regulations, unlike the Act itself, have effect to create civil liability. The standard to provide care can often be strict liability or even an absolute liability.
The employer's primary liability for failing to look after his workers is entirely different from an employer's VICARIOUS LIABILITY for his employees' acts.