Yet even more on the Foxconn/Apple suicides story

Just checking in with the legal eagles who read this blog:

After her suicide attempt, Yu received a one-off \”humanitarian payment\” of ¥180,000 (£18,000) to help her go home. According to her father: \”It was as if they were buying and selling a thing.\” Last year, Tim Cook received wages of $4m – it was a big drop on the package he took in 2011.

Just a thought. But if an employee of a UK company, in the UK, attempted suicide at work and paralysed herself in the process, would the company then be making an ex gratia payment of 15 years\’ wages?

8 thoughts on “Yet even more on the Foxconn/Apple suicides story”

  1. “According to her father: “It was as if they were buying and selling a thing.””

    They were, weren’t they?
    It seems to me that this is a ridiculous and ultimately doomed attempt at PR, when the idiots have already decided which side of the PR battle they’re on.

  2. A UK company might pay such an amount if they thought it worthwhile to avoid the potentially very high costs of a court case even if they know that the ex-employee hasn’t got a leg to stand on – the process is the punishment in many cases.

  3. Under UK law I see no way that you’d get 15 x salary from the firm given the facts stated. If the firm was responsible through an act of negligence, I suppose it’s possible. Note though that in the UK the State would then pick up the costs – housing, support etc. China has far less of a welfare state and the company is responsible to a greater extent – what was known as the iron ricebowl.

  4. Hmm. Employers have been found liable for stress. So if work related stress led to the suicide attempt, they would be at risk. In practice it would be their EL insurer.

    If they were liable, they’d have to pay a lot more than 18 years salary. It would start with compensation for loss of a lifetime’s earnings. So that’s 40 plus years’ salary. Possibly a lump sum discounted for early receipt, but the discount rate used is the rate on IL gilts, ie bugger all. Now it’s usually staged payments where someone is permanently disabled.

    Then there would be the care costs, including for relatives’ time. Then the costs of adapting a property for her to live in. Then any other additional costs incurred as a result of her disability. Then something for loss of amenity ie being paralysed for life – £200,000 is a figure I saw, but it’s not my area.

    So hard to say without knowing a *lot* more about working conditions, and in particular whether she was exhibiting signs of stress or had complained. My guess is when a UK insurer’s claims inspector came and saw the nets under the dormitory windows, he’d start to feel his bowels loosening, and he’d suggest to head office they think hard about renewing.

    But v difficult to say – apart from maybe oil rig workers, I doubt any UK workers have conditions anything like Chinese factory workers. Not just the long hours, but the way they live in the factory/on site.

    But I can see them wanting to settle. Not just for fear of court costs, but also out of fear they might lose. But as Foxconn could not operate a factory like that here, it’s hypothetical.

  5. ken,

    how can you relate the “facts stated” to UK law? I mean what would happen to an employer who was found to have required an employee to work those hours, under those conditions, and also failed to pay them?

  6. Ps, making employers potentially liable for work related stress can have unintended consequences. One law firm sent a note to all their clients suggesting they fire anyone exhibiting signs of stress and just pay the unfair dismissal damages – that would buy off the risk of a larger “injury” claim.

  7. Luis Enrique, as some here will know, I am by profession a barrister most of whose work is publicly-funded. My employer, a certain HMG, routinely fails to pay me. It’s their policy. Quite often I’m also required to work for free.

    It’s all about what an employer can get away with. Monopolies are always going to be the worst. And government monopolies are the worst of the worst.

    As to the employment law question, I’ll steer clear, since I know nothing of the subject.

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