This article was originally published in December 2017 and was updated in December 2022 with new additions to the 14 things you should do after being assaulted at work.
If you have experienced an assault at work, call us on 01423 788 538 to speak to an expert solicitor.
An assault at work can be deeply shocking – a sudden, painful event which can completely darken an otherwise routine part of your life. Even if it is a risk you face every day in your job, it does not lessen the traumatic nature of the experience or change the fact that it is something which no one should have to endure.
In the immediate aftermath of the assault, you need to make sure you are safe and are receiving the care that you need for your injuries and wellbeing.
This list aims to help you in the often-confusing days and weeks that follow. In general, the 14 things we’ve listed below are about:
- Looking after your own welfare
- Looking out for other members of staff
- Making and cementing positive changes in your workplace
- Putting yourself in the best possible position to recover compensation
So with that in mind, it’s on to the list, starting with the single most important thing you should do after an assault at work:
1. Prioritise your health and wellbeing
This always has to take top priority. And you must not put your health or wellbeing at risk for anything else on this list.
Violent incidents at work can cause a variety of injuries – both physical and psychological – so it is important that you get yourself fully checked over by medical professionals as soon as possible after your assault.
You may become aware of other injuries some time after the attack. Psychological injuries, in particular, can take time to emerge or for you to notice their effects on your life. Going back to your GP or hospital as often as you need can help to ensure that your health is monitored and that you are receiving appropriate care.
It also means that your injuries are documented, and this can be useful evidence if you later decide to make a compensation claim.
2. Report the assault to the police
We recommend that you report your assault to the police no matter the circumstances.
If you have been assaulted at work by a stranger, perhaps, say, by a customer or in an armed robbery, it’s likely that your natural instinct is to report the assault to the police anyway.
But with other attackers it may not be so clear cut. For example, if you have been caring for someone who has attacked you, such as a patient, a pupil, or a care home resident, reporting the incident to the police may not even cross your mind.
It might also be a difficult decision if you have been assaulted at work by a colleague – depending on the situation.
If you are reluctant to report the assault to the police, we would encourage you to do so for three reasons:
- If the police become involved, then it may stop the assailant from doing it again, thereby reducing the risk that you, a colleague, or anyone else will be assaulted by them in future.
- The police may help to gather evidence about the attack. This can assist in any of the three types of compensation claim you might choose to bring.
- More specifically, in order to bring a Criminal Injuries Compensation claim, you are required to report the attack to the police as soon as possible after it occurred, and then assist the police in pursuing the matter. If you do not report your assault to the police, this potential avenue for compensation will be closed off.
3. Report the assault to your manager
You should make sure that your manager knows about the attack. Tell them orally, but also follow up in writing (by letter or email) so that there is clear evidence that you informed them of the assault.
Unlike accidents at work, assaults in the workplace aren’t routinely added to the accident book. Therefore, you should insist that the incident is recorded in the accident book and that an investigation (into how your assault was allowed to happen) is carried out. This can be useful evidence for a possible compensation claim down the line, but may also help your employer to make adjustments and increase safety in the workplace.
If your employer is less than supportive, you might be worried that these actions (and some others on this list) could antagonise them or put your job at risk. However, you also have employment rights which can protect you.
If your employer has failed you, either in causing the situation which led to your attack, or by not dealing with the situation following it, this could be grounds for a constructive dismissal claim if you later feel forced to leave your job. And if, by reporting the attack to your manager, you are treated badly, then you may have the basis for a whistleblowing claim.
However, before making any decisions which impact your employment, we recommend that you seek dedicated employment law advice.
4. Tell your colleagues about the attack
You should make sure that your colleagues are aware of the assault, particularly if you were working alone at the time. Understandably, talking about the assault may be difficult. If so, it might be easier to tell one or two trusted co-workers and ask them to spread the word for you.
Ensuring your colleagues are aware of your assault is important.
Firstly, it warns your co-workers about the potential risks they face. The circumstances of your assault could make them aware of situations in which they are vulnerable. And if your attacker was someone with whom they could have ongoing contact – such as a prisoner, patient, care home resident, pupil, fellow worker, or even perhaps a repeat customer – warning your colleagues of that individual’s violent tendencies allows them to be on their guard and to act more safely. If your workplace holds records or notes about individuals, you can make sure that your attack and its circumstances are documented there.
Secondly, the more people who know about the assault, the harder it will be for an unscrupulous employer to ‘sweep the matter under the carpet’. This can have important consequences for workplace safety and any investigations into your assault.
5. Collect evidence of the assault
If you are even slightly considering a compensation claim for your assault at work, you should try to collect as much evidence as you can, while you can.
It is always easier to collect evidence shortly after the assault, than it is at a later date. So even if, later on, you decide you don’t want to make a claim, at least you aren’t in the difficult position of wanting to claim but where important evidence is no longer available.
Useful evidence can include:
- Your account of the assault, written down whilst it is fresh in your mind
- Photos or video of the area where the assault happened
- CCTV footage
- Details of any witnesses
- Details of anyone you spoke to and what was said
If you want to pursue a compensation claim against your employer, then it is helpful to obtain evidence which indicates that the assault was predictable. The basis of any claim against your employer will usually be that they did not do enough to protect you from a foreseeable risk of being attacked and injured.
So, for example, if you were attacked by a patient, prisoner, care home resident, or pupil, and a colleague tells you afterwards that something similar with that individual had happened before (or nearly happened before), then this is key information and you should write it down. There may be other evidence to support this as well, such as notes or records on the individual. Evidence like this could be the difference between establishing that your employer was legally responsible for the assault or not – and therefore could be the difference between winning or losing a compensation claim for your assault at work.
6. Keep a diary of your injury symptoms
It’s a good idea to record the progress of your injuries – physical and psychological – in a diary or on your phone. You can use this to keep track of:
- How you are feeling day-to-day or week-to-week
- What medical appointments you attend
- What medication you are taking
- If there are any activities, tasks or hobbies which your injuries have stopped you from doing.
This can be very helpful in future. If you do bring an assault at work compensation claim, at some point you are likely to see a medical expert, who will write a medical report on your injuries. And, naturally, it could be difficult to remember exactly how your symptoms stood at a certain point, months or maybe even years ago. In our experience, we also find that clients may forget about some of their symptoms entirely – especially when trying to relate them all to a medical expert.
By having a diary of your symptoms, you can give the medical expert a detailed account of your injuries and how they progressed. This should make the medical report much more accurate. And that can be crucial, as the medical report is likely to be the main evidence to support the harm you sustained from the assault.
7. Record your losses and care and assistance
Following on from Number 6, if you are thinking of making a compensation claim, you should also keep track of the money you have spent or lost due to the assault. These losses can often be included in the claim alongside your injuries.
There are many different kinds of loss you can incur, but some common examples are:
- Loss of earnings
- Medical expenses and treatment costs
- Travel expenses
- Care and assistance
For more on the kind of losses which can be included in a personal injury claim, download our free ebook: The Ultimate Personal Injury Compensation Guide
It’s likely you will have started incurring losses like these almost immediately after your assault. So as soon as you feel able – or with someone else’s help – start noting down the losses you incur and keeping evidence for them.
We suggest that you take pictures on your phone of any receipts, tickets, bills etc. to keep the evidence safe.
As with collecting evidence of the assault, you don’t want to be in a situation where significant losses are left out of your claim because you’ve forgotten about them, or the evidence has been lost.
Care and assistance is a bit different. If a professional carer helps you after your assault, you can claim the costs involved in a similar way to other expenses. But you can also claim for care and assistance received from loved ones – who won’t be charging you fees for their help. However, in order to support this, you should record:
- Who helped you
- What day-to-day tasks you needed their help with
- How long they helped you for (i.e. how many hours per week, and for how many weeks).
It’s likely that this care will reduce gradually as your injuries heal. So, having an accurate record of the extent of care you needed over the course of your recovery, and how it changed, makes for a stronger claim for this loss and increase your chances of recovering compensation for it.
8. Demand a new and improved risk assessment
Risk assessments are a necessary part of an employer’s duty to operate a safe workplace under the law. They are intended to identify risks to staff members and set out the action being taken to reduce the chance of injury from them.
Because you have been injured at work, it is possible that your employer’s risk assessment was defective. If your employer did not even have a risk assessment, or it did not cover the risk of assaults in the workplace, this is a clear indication they have not done enough to keep you safe at work.
A new risk assessment should be completed by your employer to ensure that lessons are learned and staff are better protected in future.
9. Demand safer ways of working
In some circumstances, an assault in the workplace might have been avoided, or the harm minimised, by safer ways of working. Two common areas where this might apply are: staff training and the number of staff.
If your assault happened, or was made worse, because either you or colleagues were not properly trained, then you need to request appropriate training for all staff who are expected to carry out similar duties. For example, we often find that many care assistants haven’t received training in how to look after patients or residents with autism or dementia.
Training on de-escalation, control, and restraint techniques, or on self-defence, can be very useful in a wide range of roles. It can help staff to spot potentially violent incidents building up, and deal with them if they occur. If this kind of training would help in situations you or colleagues face, you should ask that your employer provides it.
- Number of staff
Often an assault at work happens due to staff shortages. Lone workers are more vulnerable to assaults at work due to colleagues not being around to help them.
After an assault, your employer may be most receptive to making the necessary changes. You should ask for higher staff numbers, or a better system of work so that, when carrying out certain tasks, there are always multiple staff members on hand.
Ensure that your request is in writing. If you don’t get a response, chase your employer. And if your employer does not make changes, ask them in writing why this is the case. It may be that, by your employer not increasing staff numbers, you believe another assault will take place in the future. If so, spell this out to your employer in writing.
10. Demand better Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
If you think protective equipment might have helped when you were assaulted at work – either as a deterrent or to reduce the harm you suffered – you should say so to your employer. Again, it is best if this is done in writing so that there is a clear record of you raising your concerns.
The type of PPE will depend on your work, but it could include protective clothing and personal alarms. Often, these can be introduced at relatively low cost to your employer.
Alternatively, if you had been issued with PPE before the assault and it did not fulfil its purpose, you may have grounds to claim against your employer for injuries caused by inadequate PPE.
11. Check that your employer has filed a RIDDOR report to the Health and Safety Executive
Generally, an employer needs to file a report under the RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) when someone has been off work for 7 days due to an incident at work.
If you have been off work for 7 or more days because of the assault and your employer won’t submit a RIDDOR report, we recommend that you contact the Health and Safety Executive yourself.
12. Consider submitting a grievance
Grievances are formal complaints about issues in your workplace.
If you believe that the assault could, and should, have been prevented, then you may want to submit a grievance to your employer.
It could be that the risk of violence you faced was known to your employer, but this information wasn’t passed onto you – which can be distressing to discover. Or it could be that a colleague has failed to complete the correct documentation about previous incidents and, if they had done so, you would have known what to expect and would have been sufficiently on your guard to potentially avoid injury.
By submitting a grievance, you are sending a strong signal to your employer that you do not tolerate being assaulted at work and that they should implement measures to ensure that it doesn’t happen to you or anyone else again. Your suffering shouldn’t be in vain.
As mentioned above, if you are worried about your employer’s reaction, you can always discuss your employment rights with Truth Legal’s specialist employment law team before you take any steps. Just get in touch for guidance on your situation.
13. Remember your deadlines for making a claim
Claiming compensation for an assault at work can often be done through several legal avenues. Depending on your circumstances, you might be able to make a claim to the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (CICA) and you may have grounds for civil liability claims against your employer and your attacker themselves.
Time limits will apply to each of these possible claims, however. The general time limits are:
- For a CICA claim, you must submit it within 2 years of the date of the assault.
- For most assault at work claims against your employer or your attacker directly, you have 3 years from the date of your assault in which to settle your claim or begin court proceedings.
If you miss these deadlines, you could be prevented from claiming compensation.
The time for making a claim can disappear surprisingly quickly, especially with the tighter deadline on CICA claims. We would recommend that if you are wondering about a claim at all, seek legal advice as soon as possible to keep your options open.
There can be some exceptions to the time limits given above,so it is always worth seeking advice even if you think it might be too late.
14. Contact a specialist Assault at Work compensation solicitor
We would suggest this, wouldn’t we? After all, Truth Legal have been handling assault at work cases since we were founded in 2012, and our experienced lawyers are always ready to help anyone who has been assaulted at work.
But even if you aren’t sure whether you want to make a claim, seeking legal advice can help you to see your options clearly, and ensures you can make an informed decision.
So why not contact us for a free consultation? You can discuss your situation with an assault at work expert and there is no pressure or obligation on you to proceed further.