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Inadequately trained employees create dangerous work environments. An employer has a duty of care to keep their employees safe in the workplace, and that means both physically and mentally. This includes providing all employees with appropriate training, whether it is standard Health and Safety procedures, training on specific equipment or practices, or training on other workplace topics such as, but not limited to, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Bullying and Harassment and the GDPR.
Employers also have a duty to ensure that their organisation and its customers and/or service users are protected by providing employees with appropriate training to be able to perform their roles in compliance with legal and regulatory procedures.
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 requires an employer to provide whatever information, instruction, training and supervision is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of their employees. This is expanded by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which identify situations where health and safety training is particularly important. If an employer fails to implement these requirements, they are avoiding their legal obligation to their employees.
Risks that an employer may face through not providing role-appropriate, adequate training include, but are not limited to:
- Occupational health and safety risks.
- Data-breach risks.
- Safeguarding risks.
- Discrimination risks.
- Regulatory and legal risks.
- Security risks.
- Financial reporting and auditing risks.
- Reputation and client risks.
- Medical risks.
What is inadequate training in the workplace?
If an incident or accident occurs in the workplace in which a likely contributing factor to that incident or accident is a lack of adequate training, then it is deemed that the employer is responsible due to providing inadequate training to any employees involved in the incident or accident.
If training is inadequate, basically it is either insufficient for the requirements of a role or it does not meet requirements in terms of quality, content and/or delivery methods.
Many employers provide mandatory training in a variety of areas to ensure that employees have adequate training in topic areas that are fundamental to their business; one of the most vital pieces of training above all of these areas is safety training.
The law outlines situations to employers in which training is specifically important, for example for new employees, when new risks or procedures are introduced to the workplace and to update existing knowledge such as legal updates, new ways of working etc.
What training should be provided?
Inadequate training in the workplace can result in poor performance with employees experiencing increased levels of work-related stress. In more physically demanding roles, it could also lead to a number of injuries. For example, if your employer does not provide you with any official training in carrying out manual handling tasks but still wants you to perform them, then this is a breach of their duty of care. If injuries are then sustained as a result, this is a good example of employer negligence.
Figuring out training requirements isn’t always straightforward. What training should be mandatory to ensure that employees are adequately trained to perform their roles? Do all employees need the same training, or different topics and levels?
The first step towards working out training requirements is by completing a risk assessment for each job role to identify the risks associated with them. A risk assessment is a legal requirement for all companies with five or more employees. Failure to do this risks having inadequately trained employees performing their roles in potentially harmful ways.
Once you have identified the risks, you are able to determine the skills, knowledge and capabilities required for each role and you can determine the adequate training that you as an employer need to provide for specific roles, to ensure a healthy, safe and legally compliant workplace for employees.
Most employers regardless of sector typically provide as a minimum, mandatory training for all employees on:
- Health and Safety in the Workplace.
- Fire Evacuation training.
- Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
- GDPR Compliance.
- DSE (Display Screen Equipment) training.
- Manual Handling.
- Grievance, Discipline and Capability.
Other core Health and Safety training might include:
- COSHH – If staff ever work with dangerous substances or chemicals.
- First aid – Every workplace requires “adequate and appropriate” first aid provisions including equipment, facilities and trained personnel.
- Risk assessment – Every workplace with over five employees is required to document its risk assessments.
- Accident reporting – As an employer, it is a legal requirement to report all incidents, no matter how big or small.
- Mental Health and Wellbeing – Stress, depression or anxiety account for 55% of all working days lost due to work-related ill health.
Why might inadequate training happen?
There are many reasons why employers don’t train their employees adequately, including but not limited to:
- Cost – With the variety of training options available to businesses, from affordable online courses and webinars to tailored, custom-designed programmes, there are training solutions available for every size training budget. The cost of inadequately training employees is likely to be much higher than the investment in training, and the return on training investment can be easily calculated by measuring such things as performance improvements, safety improvements, employee satisfaction and retention, reduction in recruitment costs, and customer and/or service user satisfaction.
- Time away from the workplace – Every employee’s skills get rusty and knowledge becomes outdated quickly, irrespective of role level. Investing in training may involve short-term pain for long-term gain. With inadequate training there will be inevitable drops in quality and productivity that come from failing to keep skills and knowledge current.
- Risk assessments, and training gap and needs analyses are not completed – Having indicators of potential safety risks and training needs can help an employer identify performance gaps and provide more comprehensive training to ensure that employees have the right level of training, knowledge and skill to be able to carry out their roles as safely and compliantly as possible.
- Training records are not completed or updated – Training is not optional, or a nice-to-have, but it is actually a specific requirement of some legislation and also in many occupational standards. By keeping records of training, it becomes easier for managers to review the skills of individual team members and to recommend future training needs as part of an appraisal process. Employers who fail to keep a record of the training that has taken place and when it took place, will be unable to identify who has been trained, what level(s) of training they have completed, when updates might be required etc. and if anything goes wrong, the question “were team members properly trained?” will not be able to be answered, placing the employer in a vulnerable position.
- The assumption that training has been provided by a previous employer – Employers should always identify and provide their own mandatory training to ensure that employees have received training appropriate and adequate for their role in their current workplace.
What are the consequences of inadequate training?
Mistakes made by employees can result in lawsuits, fines and, in some cases, charges of criminal negligence for an employer, particularly if it is found that an employer has failed to provide adequate training or that the training provided was proved to be inadequate for the duties being carried out by the employee.
In 2019/2020 an average of 610,000 workers were injured in workplace accidents and a further 559,000 workers suffered a new case of ill health which they believed was caused or made worse by their work.
The most reported injuries at work due to inadequate training include:
- Falling from scaffolding, a ladder or from another height because of insufficient training to use necessary equipment properly.
- Suffering a lifting injury which as a consequence results in back injuries because of inadequate training in manual handling of heavy items.
- Sustaining an electric shock because of insufficient training on how equipment must be used/operated.
- Suffering chemical burns and/or other dangerous/hazardous material injuries due to inadequate training on how dangerous substances must be handled.
- Developing work-related medical conditions and other health issues due to inadequate or a lack of adequate training on how to use safety equipment and personal protective equipment.
- Being insufficiently trained to operate specialist machinery, equipment and tools.
- Work-related medical conditions and other health issues due to inadequate training and information on the safe use of display screen equipment (DSE).
Whilst all roles may experience being inadequately trained, there are certain work environments and roles that put you more at risk of accidents or incidents or falling foul of regulatory compliance in a workplace through being inadequately trained.
These include but are not limited to:
- Warehouse workers.
- Factory workers.
- Kitchen staff, porters and chefs.
- Care workers.
- Education staff.
- Medical staff.
- Human Resources.
Some examples of where inadequate training on legal and regulatory responsibilities and practices may have major consequences for employers include, but are not limited to:
Breaches in Health and Safety can incur fines of up to £20,000, while issues that endanger human lives can produce unlimited fines or imprisonment. If an employee is injured at a workplace where best practice wasn’t implemented, particularly through inadequate training, there is also a chance they could claim against the business.
Failure to comply with the UK GDPR may leave an employer open to substantial fines. There are two tiers of fines: a maximum fine of £17.5 million or 4 per cent of annual global turnover, whichever is greater, for infringement of any of the data protection principles or rights of individuals, particularly if this was caused by inadequately training staff.
Failure to follow the requirements of any relevant ACAS Code of Practice on the part of the employer may result in an increase to any compensation award by up to 25%, particularly if this was caused by inadequately training staff.
A breach of the Equality Act 2010 by an employer, particularly if this was caused by inadequately training staff can result in an employment tribunal where there is no limit on the amount of compensation that can be awarded in discrimination cases.
Many professions will have specific legal and regulatory responsibilities and practices that will require employees to receive adequate training corresponding to their roles.
How to deal with inadequate training
Employees who view training as a mandatory exercise and do not apply themselves to it fully are unlikely to implement it fully back in the workplace. Employee training might seem like one, single step. However, there are actually several steps that need to happen throughout training and beyond in order for employees to actually learn new information and change their behaviour.
Firstly, employees need an understanding of why the problems matter; specifically, why they matter to each employee as it relates to their job. If employees internalise, for example, the fact that safety at work has real and serious consequences not just for the people involved, including themselves, but also for the entire organisation, they will pay attention to the training like their jobs depend on it.
If your employees seem to have a grasp of why safety at work is actually important and not just part of some compliance exercise, the next thing to check is for actionable knowledge. Do your employees know exactly what to do when they encounter a safety issue?
If your employees seem to have a solid grasp of the content of the training material, the next stage is implementing the training in the workplace. The line manager’s role should be to monitor performance following the training and to implement workplace coaching where they identify any gaps in performance. For example, if an employee who has participated in manual handling training continues to lift inappropriately, the line manager should reiterate the training content on the correct way to lift and then monitor to ensure that this is being put into practice. Any training can be inadequate in the long run if it is never reviewed after the initial training.
Really effective training requires much more than a few hours a few times a year; it should be part of the organisation’s performance management procedure and monitored by line managers to ensure its adequacy.
What can an employer do to prevent inadequate training?
Inadequate training in the workplace can not only lead to the risk of accidents and incidents in the workplace, but it can also lead to employees who feel undervalued by an employer who is not prepared to invest time and resources into ensuring that they are adequately trained. This in turn can lead to poor working practices, lack of motivation and high staff turnover.
A training strategy and training policy should be developed where the responsibility and accountability for adequate training rests not only with senior management to identify and provide appropriate training but also with all employees to request adequate training if it has not been provided for them.
Inadequate training can be prevented by empowering employees to analyse their own training needs in conjunction with their line managers during their probation period and throughout the performance year. Employees need to feel confident in raising an issue when they have not received sufficient training to perform their role or for a specific task within their role, and know that their request for adequate training will be acknowledged and satisfied.
All training needs to be evaluated on a regular basis to ensure that it meets the aim and objectives required by the organisation and its employees. Where it fails to do so, its contents and delivery methods should be reviewed and amended appropriately.
What can an employee do to prevent inadequate training?
If you have not had the training you need to do your job, both you and your employer will suffer from poorer performance, and perhaps the lack of training could also give rise to health and safety concerns and the potential of unsafe working. In the eyes of the law, if you have an accident or incident at work which has been caused due to your employer’s failure to adequately train you, your employer will be responsible for the accident or incident. However, your employer needs to know that any training that you might have received is inadequate or that you have not received any training at all for whatever reason.
It is important that you raise your concerns about this. You should first speak to your line manager about your concerns of inadequate training. Clearly identify the areas that you feel you lack adequate training in; you can talk to fellow colleagues about the training they have had. Then speak to your manager and request that they arrange the training for you. If you do not get a satisfactory answer informally, you may have to go through your organisation’s formal grievance procedure. If you are a union member, talk to your union rep about your training needs.
If you fail to raise your concerns and you fail to do your job as required, you could face disciplinary action or even dismissal on the grounds of capability, so it is crucial that you raise the issue of inadequate training in a timely manner.
To show negligence on the part of your employer you would need to establish that they failed to provide you with adequate training to do a job as safely and compliantly as possible, despite you raising your concerns.
When both employees and employers are clear about the legal and adequate training requirements involved in their roles, misunderstandings, miscommunications and inadequate performance can be easily avoided. Employees should be able to understand exactly what is expected of them, both from their employer and from the regulations and legislation that governs the business.