Campaign launched so companies can behave with compassion – need for greater awareness and clarification of existing law
The law, lawyers and insurers should make it easier for businesses and organisations to apologise when they have made a mistake. At present the fear of admitting liability often stops businesses from behaving decently and taking responsibility when things go wrong.
In turn, this often increases the costs of doing business and undermines the value of business reputation. Where human tragedy or loss is involved, it makes it harder for the victims to move on from the trauma.
And it is unnecessary. A simple clarification of the Compensation Act 2006 would give lawyers and other advisers more confidence in recommending their client do the right thing. Very often this is crucial in enabling victims of tragedies to get past them.
Many countries (including Scotland from 2016) have what is known as an Apology Clause which makes it possible to apologise without admitting liability.
In the 2006 Compensation Act the UK introduced one too, saying: “an apology, an offer of treatment or other redress, shall not itself amount to an admission of negligence or breach of statutory duty”.
Nevertheless, legal experts believe that this clause is not sufficiently clear or well known to give lawyers the confidence to use it, so no case law has developed.
We believe this needs to change.
Apologies should be meaningful. They should not be allowed to become hollow expressions to be seen to do the right thing, without actually doing something to address the issue.
The Scottish Apology Act says that an apology should include “an undertaking to look at the circumstances giving rise to the act, omission or outcome with a view to preventing the recurrence”. This should be followed throughout.
This call to clarify the law comes from a group of campaigners consisting of communications advisers, lawyers and business.
The campaign is led by Guy Corbet, Sue Stapely and Nick Wright, long-standing communications and crisis management experts. Too often they have been frustrated when clients have been told the law will not allow them to do the right thing.
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