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Understanding Informed Consent in Employment: An Essential Element of Duty of Care

If you’ve been following the latest news on duty of care in recent month you’ll have noticed a large number of articles and forums discussing how organisations can be sued for neglecting their responsibilities, or duty of care, towards the health and safety of their personnel. This includes their employees, volunteers, consultants - basically all those with whom there is a degree of control. When personnel work in higher-risk environments, organisations are expected to go above and beyond normal practice and enhance their health and safety measures accordingly. Putting the health and well-being of our personnel at the heart of everything we do enables safer and more effective work.

Every stage of the employment cycle involves organisational duty of care. In a recent article written for Devex, I argued that organisations which excel at recruitment lay the best foundation for a continued healthy and safe working environment. One of the critical items in recruitment and induction practices is informed consent.

A recent publication called, Voluntary Guidelines on the Duty of Care to Seconded Civilian Personnel, defined informed consent as:

“…an employee’s agreement to being deployed [employed] after all the relevant facts - the organisation provides their personnel with the best available information and knowledge about the operational environment, the objectives and the tasks to be performed, the related safety and security risks, and risk treatment measures, crisis management plans and redress measures, and they understand and accept these facts [sic].”