Negligence occurs at law when one party breaches its duty of care to another, causing that party reasonably foreseeable damage. Employees can be negligent while carrying out their work and cause loss to third parties. As an employer, are you liable  for your employee’s negligence? The answer, like most questions in law, is it depends.

If your employee is negligent while performing a duty as part of their employment, it is likely that you as the employer will be held liable for that negligence under the common law principle of vicarious liability. Vicarious liability is a strict liability action, meaning you can be found liable for your employee’s negligent conduct without any finding of wrongdoing on your part.

What are the policy considerations behind vicarious liability?

The nature of vicarious liability has been driven by a number of policy considerations, including:

  1. Fairness – that you as an employer are deriving a benefit from your employee’s activities, so should also bear some of the risk involved in those activities. 
  1. Increased standards – that by holding you responsible for your employee’s negligent behaviour, you will be encouraged to do what you can to ensure your employees maintain good practices. 
  1. Greater access to compensation – as an employer, you are more likely to have insurance that would cover the claim and a greater access to funds for compensation purposes.
  1. Risk – that you have put the employee in the position in which they could be negligent, so have accordingly contributed to the risk of the negligence occurring.


What are some of the things I should consider before accepting vicarious liability? 

Before accepting a claim for vicarious liability that relates to negligence, you should first check a number of things. For example:  

Was your employee’s conduct definitely negligent? 

Vicarious liability for negligence in the workplace can only arise where the employee is negligent. If there is no negligence on the part of the employee, you cannot be vicariously liable for it. 

Shared Liability 

We recommend checking that there is no third party involved who may share in the liability and from which you could claim a contribution.  

Sufficient Connection

It’s important to check if there is a sufficient connection between the employment and the negligence. Vicarious liability in relation to negligence only arises in situations where the negligence occurred while the employee was acting in the course of their employment. If the negligent act occurred outside of work hours, when the employee was doing an activity that was unrelated to their employment, it is unlikely that the negligent act would have sufficient connection to their employment to attract a claim of vicarious liability. 

Although the above points provide you with a good starting point if you’re facing a vicarious liability claim, it’s important to note that it’s not an exhaustive list. Business disputes can be complex, and the nature of negligence claims are rarely straight forward.In any claim for vicarious liability, we strongly recommend you seek legal advice as soon as possible as your position will be specific to the case of your business. Expert litigation solicitors such as Labrums Solicitors, will be able to help and advise you through the process. 

Am I able to recover my loss suffered under a vicarious liability claim from the employee? 

A vicarious liability claim against you does not clear your employee of liability. Due to this, you may be able to seek recovery of some of your loss under a vicarious liability claim from the employee pursuant to the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978. A legal expert can support you through this process.

The negligent conduct may also result in a breach by the employee of their employment contract with you. If this is the case, you have the option of suing the employee for your damages through a breach of contract claim.

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Need advice on vicarious liability? Contact us

The lawyers at Labrums have significant experience in litigation, and business dispute resolution. We would be happy to assist you should you have any queries or require any assistance in relation to a vicarious liability claim. Contact us on 01727 858807 to book a consultation with one of our specialists.

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