New sentencing guidelines in the UK means that companies could face fines of more than £20 million if convicted of corporate manslaughter.
The upper level of £20 million will be applied to companies with an annual turnover of more than £50 million, though the Sentencing Council added that the fine will not have a limit for very serious cases.
Judges will now examine elements such as the pay of company directors, pension provision and profit before tax when calculating fines and deciding on a suitable figure.
Harsher Punishment Should Encourage the Creation of Safer Work Environments
The Sentencing Council, which unveiled the new, tougher fines on Tuesday November 3rd 2015, said that this harsher punishment should have so much economic impact on guilty companies that it encourages them to have a safer environment. The higher fines will also act as a deterrent against slacking on health and safety laws and standards when it comes to employees.
Alongside company manslaughter, individuals who are guilty of a breach of duty to employees and are directly responsible for the death of employees can now be sentenced to up to two years in prison.
Michael Caplan QC of the sentencing council said that the new guidelines and fines will introduce a “consistent approach” to corporate manslaughter sentencing, adding that “these offences can have very serious consequences and it is important that sentences reflect these”.
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007
Since the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force, it has led to eight convictions in England and Wales. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says 142 people were killed at work in 2014, while a further 102 were killed in accidents connected to their work.