Sustainable technology workers entitled to compensation
Workers for speciality chemicals and sustainable technology company, Johnson Matthey, have been told they are entitled to compensation from their former employer.
The ruling, announced in the Supreme Court, marks a watershed moment in employment law history, as it entitles employees to make a claim if they have lost their job due to employer negligence, resulting in physiological change, even if that change has no symptoms.
The case arose following the discharge of three Johnson Matthey employees, who were dismissed by the organisation on medical grounds. This was due to them developing a sensitivity to platinum salts during the process of making catalytic converters, a condition that came about because of the company’s failure to clean its premises effectively.
Exposure to the substance put the workers at risk of developing a more serious allergic reaction and once the sensitivity had been identified, Johnson Matthey dismissed the workers, with the option of a different role at a lower pay rate being the only alternative to unemployment.
Despite previous rulings at the High Court and Court of Appeal, which sided with the employer and prevented the three men from claiming compensation, the Supreme Court judges overturned these decisions, clearing the way for further legal action.
The judgement on the case found: “What has happened to the claimants is that their bodily capacity for work has been impaired and they are therefore significantly worse off. They have, in my view, suffered actionable bodily damage, or personal injury, which, given its impact on their lives, is certainly more than negligible.”
A spokesperson for the employer said: “Johnson Matthey notes the outcome which clarifies that the claimants, in addition to compensation payments already made to them by JM, are entitled to further compensation. JM’s priority is always to protect the health and wellbeing of our employees and we continue to review and enhance our processes to ensure this is the case.”