Fears that employers' and public liability policies fail to cover corporate manslaughter

Employers' liability (EL) and public liability policies will have to be revised in advance of the proposed corporate manslaughter Bill, a leading lawyer has warned.

Kennedys health and safety partner Daniel McShee, who worked on the Hatfield rail disaster court case, said: "Most policies will not explicitly cover these issues. Policies that indemnify for expenses incurred during legal proceedings will be effective, whereas those that specify indemnity for breaches of the Health and Safety Act will need to be revised." McShee predicted that further claims would be made against large firms should the Bill become law.

There is also industry concern that some insurers may refuse to renew indemnity cover for convicted companies or those at higher risk of litigation.

Aon risk management services director John Jones said: "A conviction for corporate manslaughter would undoubtedly be a material fact needing to be disclosed to insurers. They may wish to impose terms or, in some cases, be reluctant to offer renewal terms to a convicted company or organisation."

He added: "Aon has obtained and is obtaining extensions to its EL and public liability policies for clients wherever possible."

Amicus: Bill doesn't go far enough
Trade union Amicus has slammed the corporate manslaughter Bill for being too narrow.

It said the Bill fails to allow for directors or senior managers to be held individually responsible for breaches of the Health and Safety Act and that it should include an additional offence of "unlawful killing" to enable individuals to be prosecuted, with penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment.

The Bill is in pre-legislative scrutiny with the Home Affairs and DWP committees and is yet to undergo its first parliamentary reading.