Employers’ Liability Act, 1938 has been legislated with the objective of ruling out certain defences in suits for damages arising out of injuries sustained by workmen. Under the Common law, in case of civil suits for damages resulting from injuries sustained by workmen the employer can plead the Doctrine of Common Employment, by which the employer is not normally liable to pay damages to a workman for an injury resulting from the default of another workman and the Doctrine of Assumed Risk, by which an employee is presumed to have accepted a risk if it is such that he ought to have known it to be part of the risks of his occupation.
Employers’ Liability Act, 1938 says clearly who the employer is in respect of the workers deputed by the contractors and man-power supply agencies to work in the factories and establishments of other employers. The definition in this Act helps understanding the definition of the term ‘Workman’ in the Workman’s Compensation Act, 1923 (now Employee’s Compensation Act, 1923), the definition of the terms like ‘employee’, ‘principal employer’ and ‘immediate employer’ in the ESI Act, 1998, the definition of the terms ‘workman’, ‘contract labour’ and ‘contractor’ in the Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970. This Employers’ Liability Act, 1938 would help bridge many gaps that may arise between various other labour welfare enactments. This Act is resorted to for clarification and protection, when there is flaw or doubt in other enactments. This is a protective umbrella for workmen and had been enacted after due deliberations. This has withstood the test of time.
Employers’ Liability Act defines and restricts the occasions and the extent to which public and private employers shall be liable in compensation in case of injuries to their employees occurring in the course of their employment and particularly abolishing the common law rule that the employer is not liable if the injury is caused by the fault or negligence of a fellow servant and also the defences of contributory negligence and assumption of risk.