Do I have to be an employee to make a work injury claim?

Man on phone to personal injury solicitor

You don't necessarily need to be an employee to make a work injury claim. This article explores the circumstances under which various workers, including part-time, temporary, and contract workers, as well as interns and volunteers, can claim compensation for injuries sustained in a work environment.

Employers' duty of care

Anyone in a workplace is protected by Health and Safety legislation, whether they are an employee, temporary worker or simply a member of the public visiting the premises.

All employers owe a legal 'duty of care' to their employees. If an employee is injured at work as a result of their employer's failure in their duty, a claim for financial compensation may be possible.

Practically speaking, this duty means that employers must ensure that the workplace is safe, clean, and tidy. Employees must be provided with suitable tools, personal protective equipment (PPE), and adequate training must be provided for the role to be safely carried out.

Self-employed workers

Many sub-contractors and self-employed people work on premises owned or operated by another party e.g. self-employed electricians and plumbers working on a building site.

Self-employed workers are often treated similarly to employees in a legal context. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, places a legal obligation on employers to ensure the working environment is safe for anyone who has access to the workplace. Under this legislation, you have the same rights as a permanent member of staff.

Read more:

Can I make an injury claim if I'm self employed?

Agency and temp workers

A work injury compensation claim would usually be made against the company where you were working when injured, rather than the agency that technically employed you.

If the agency has more control and responsibility for a worker's role, such as by providing training or equipment, the agency may be liable.

Read more:

How do I make an agency worker compensation claim?.

Zero-hours contracts

Regardless of the type of contract you are employed on, your employer owes you the same duty of care.

If your working conditions are unsafe in any way and you are injured as a result, you can claim work accident compensation even if you are on a zero-hours contract.

Read more:

How do I make an injury claim if I am on a zero-hours contract?


Home workers, sometimes called 'out workers' or 'remote workers', may be eligible to claim against their employer if they are injured while working from home.

Whether you will be able to claim as a home worker will depend on the circumstances of your accident, and the degree to which your employer owed you a duty of care.

An employer will not usually be held responsible for a work accident that occurs as the result of circumstances beyond their control, such as a slip or trip caused by a family member's negligence.

By law, a health and safety risk assessment should be carried out to identify and manage risks to employer safety and the safety of others. The employer is still required to carry out a full risk assessment even if you work from home.

If your employer fails to carry out a risk assessment or fails in their obligation to provide a safe working environment, your employer may be held liable for your injury. If the injury arises from defective or inadequate equipment, your employer has supplied or approved, a claim may be possible.

Case study

A recent case involving a 15 year old claimant injured on work experience illustrates the law's position on non-employee work accidents.

The claimant was asked to help lift a 14 foot-long metal bar. When the teenager protested that the bar was too heavy, the mechanic insisted. The mechanic then dropped the end he was holding, crushing the teenager's hand. The accident resulted in the teenager's index finger being amputated.

Following the accident, the teenager was concerned that he would be unable to make a claim. As he was not an employee, he assumed that he wasn't eligible to make a claim.

Health and Safety laws defined the teenager in this case as a visitor to the workplace, making an occupier's liability claim possible. Within a month the garage admitted liability, and due to the severe, life-altering nature of the injury, the teenager was awarded £50,000 compensation.

Employers' liability claims claims

Work accident claims, or employers' liability claims, differ from other types of claim. Click on the icons below to read more about claiming:

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Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher