Workmen's Compensation Act 1897

Workmen's Compensation Act 1897

The Workmen's Compensation Act 1897 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which dealt with the right of workers for compensation for personal injury. It replaced the 1880 Employer's Liability Act, which required the injured worker the right to sue the employer and put the burden of proof on the employee. After 1897, injured employees had only to show that they had been injured on the job. These are roughly the same rights German workers got in their 1884 law.

A "workman" was defined as,

"any person who is engaged in an employment to which this Act applies, whether by way of manual labour or otherwise."

The employments to which the Act applied were stated to be railways, mining and quarrying, factory work and laundry work.

However the courts took a restrictive interpretation in Simpson v. Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron & Coal Co. A widow claimed for the death of a colliery manager who had been killed in an underground accident. Lord Collins MR held that her dead husband was outside the Act's scope, because though the act extended to non-manual workers the victim "must still be a workman". He said the Act:

"presupposes a position of dependence; it treats the class of workmen as being in a sens inopes consilii, and the Legislature does for them what they cannot do for themselves: it gives them a sort of State insurance, it being assumed that they are either not sufficiently intelligent or not sufficiently in funds to insure themselves. In no sense can such a principle extend to those who are earning good salaries."

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