History of lobbying for directors’ duties reform in the UK

  • January 2010: New Bill on Safety Duties for Company Directors introduced in Parliament. The Bill never made it through to its scheduled second reading.
  • October 2007: the publication of new voluntary guidance leading Health & Safety at Work.
  • April 2006: HSC delayed its decision to support legislation, saying that it must wait “to see how proposals interacted with developments on Corporate Manslaughter, Company Law, and the Better Regulation Executive led work on developing alternative penalties” [i.e. the Macrory report on sentencing]. None of these initiatives engaged with the issue of directors’ duties.
  • Dec 2005: HSC met to review the research and agreed that the law should be changed.
  • 2004: the Select Committee on Work and Pensions’ recommendation to introduce legislation immediately, which reads that “the Government [should] reconsider[s] its decision not to legislate on directors duties and bring[s] forward proposals for pre-legislative scrutiny in the next session of Parliament” (para. 60). In response, the Government asked the HSE/HSC to conduct further research on the effectiveness of current measures, and report its findings by December2005. The research showed that statutory requirements would be more effective than voluntary guidance.
  • 2003: after having commissioned the consultancy company Greenstreet Berman to undertake a survey about the impact of the voluntary guidance, HSC argued that the voluntary guidance was enough.
  • 2001: HSC stated the need for voluntary guidance.
  • 2000: Government commitment to develop a code of practice on Directors’ responsibilities for H&S, and look at how the law should be changed to make these duties statutory: see the strategy statement “Revitalising Health and Safety”.