Fines for health and safety breaches

My company can't pay health and safety finesWhen it comes to upholding health and safety standards in the United Kingdom, businesses must adhere to a strict set of regulations to ensure the well-being of their employees and the public.

In cases where these regulations are breached, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) steps in as a formidable authority, wielding the power to impose substantial fines.

With a primary focus on preventing accidents, injuries, and occupational hazards, the HSE plays a crucial role in maintaining a safe and secure working environment across various industries.

Consequently, businesses that fail to meet their health and safety obligations may find themselves facing not only the legal consequences of their actions but also significant financial penalties imposed by the HSE.

But what happens if a business if finance and cannot afford to pay the fines?

My company can’t pay health and safety fines

In the unfortunate circumstance that a company finds itself unable to pay health and safety fines imposed by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the situation can be both challenging and concerning. Such fines are designed to hold businesses accountable for their breaches of health and safety regulations, promoting a safer work environment for employees and the wider community.

However, the financial burden of these penalties can be overwhelming for some companies, particularly smaller enterprises or those facing financial difficulties.

In such cases, it is crucial for the company to seek professional advice and explore available options to address the fines, which may include negotiating payment plans, seeking financial assistance, or consulting legal experts to mitigate the consequences and work towards rectifying the situation in compliance with the HSE’s requirements.

Severe penalty regime for health and safety misdemeanours

Businesses may run into financial difficulties for a variety of reasons, not just fines for health and safety violations. If a substantial infringement is found, HSE may assess intervention fees to cover the cost of an investigation or inspection; these fees could put your company’s finances further at risk.

It’s hardly unexpected that companies might face steep fines for non-compliance as well as being held personally accountable in some situations given the possibility of catastrophic and life-threatening accidents occurring at work.

In addition to potential civil litigation from the injured person or parties, potential disqualification from the position of director, and public name of the company due to its health and safety record, directors, officers of the company, and sole proprietors may also face these consequences.

What happens next, and what are the repercussions for you as a director or business owner, if you are unable to pay your health and safety fines?

What happens when I can’t pay my health and safety fines?

If your company is unable to pay the HSE penalty, you may have to put it into liquidation and shut it down. As a corporate director, you might potentially be subject to personal culpability depending on the situation.

Furthermore, if the Health and Safety Executive discovers any type of neglect or can clearly pinpoint a person as having partial or whole responsibility for an occurrence, any officer of the company may be punished for health and safety violations.

If the health and safety fine is too much for you to pay, operating as a sole proprietor in this situation puts you at danger of bankruptcy. However, whether you’re a company director or a sole proprietor, you may be able to continue operating by restructuring your debts or securing new financing.

What are my options if I can’t afford health and safety fines?

You might be able to relieve some of the financial pressure on your company by restructuring your debts under a formal agreement with creditors, depending on the nature of the situation and the severity of the sanctions.

  • Alternative Finance

When faced with the challenge of settling a Health and Safety Executive fine that a company is unable to pay, exploring alternative finance options can provide a lifeline in navigating this difficult situation. Various avenues can be explored to raise the necessary funds, such as seeking financial assistance from investors or lenders who specialise in supporting businesses facing regulatory challenges.

These alternative finance providers often understand the unique circumstances surrounding HSE fines and may be more flexible in their lending criteria.

Additionally, crowdfunding campaigns can be launched to engage the support of the wider community or industry peers who recognize the importance of maintaining health and safety standards.

Exploring these alternative finance options can help businesses alleviate the financial burden of HSE fines and ensure compliance with regulatory obligations while safeguarding the well-being of their workforce.

  • Company Voluntary Arrangement

When a business is unable to pay a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) fine and faces the risk of financial instability, a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) can serve as a viable solution to address the situation. A CVA is a legally binding agreement between the company and its creditors, including the HSE, that allows for the restructuring of debts and the implementation of a manageable repayment plan.

By entering into a CVA, the company can negotiate with creditors to potentially reduce the total amount owed, extend payment terms, or consolidate debts, providing much-needed breathing space to settle the HSE fine. This arrangement not only offers the opportunity to meet financial obligations but also demonstrates a commitment to rectifying the breach of health and safety regulations.

Furthermore, a CVA can provide a platform for the company to regain stability, rebuild trust with stakeholders, and implement robust measures to ensure compliance with HSE standards in the future.

  • Creditors Voluntary Liquidation

In cases where a company is unable to pay a substantial Health and Safety Executive (HSE) fine, and alternative financing options are unfeasible, a Creditors Voluntary Liquidation (CVL) may emerge as the only viable course of action. A CVL involves a formal and controlled process where the company’s assets are liquidated to repay creditors, including the HSE. By initiating a CVL, the company can effectively wind down its operations in an organized manner, ensuring equitable distribution of available funds among creditors.

While the decision to enter into liquidation is undoubtedly difficult, it can provide an opportunity for directors to fulfill their legal obligations and mitigate personal liability.

Through the CVL process, the company can gain closure and potentially pave the way for individuals involved to embark on new ventures or explore future opportunities with a clean slate.

It is essential to consult with insolvency practitioners and legal professionals to navigate the CVL process effectively and maximize the benefits for all parties involved.

Frequently asked questions

What happens if you break health and safety laws?

If you break health and safety laws the punishment is fines, imprisonment and disqualification.

Are fines for health and safety Offences unlimited?

Yes, fines for health and safety Offences are unlimited. New legislation has come into force granting magistrates powers to issue unlimited fines for health and safety offences in England and Wales. This legislation came into effect on 12 March 2015, and provides that fines for breaches of Health & Safety are no longer capped and so will now be unlimited.


In light of the potential financial repercussions and legal complexities associated with being unable to pay a fine issued by the Health and Safety Executive, it is imperative for business owners to promptly seek professional insolvency advice. Engaging the services of experienced insolvency practitioners and legal experts can provide valuable guidance on available options, such as negotiating payment plans, exploring alternative finance solutions, or considering formal insolvency procedures.

These professionals possess the expertise necessary to navigate the intricate landscape of insolvency, ensuring that business owners make informed decisions that protect their interests and mitigate the impact on their personal and professional lives.

To take the first step towards finding suitable insolvency advice tailored to your unique circumstances, we encourage you to complete our online enquiry form today. By doing so, you can gain peace of mind and initiate the process of resolving your financial challenges in compliance with the HSE’s requirements.

Steve Jones Profile
Insolvency & Restructuring Expert at Business Insolvency Helpline

With over three decades of experience in the business and turnaround sector, Steve Jones is one of the founders of Business Insolvency Helpline. With specialist knowledge of Insolvency, Liquidations, Administration, Pre-packs, CVA, MVL, Restructuring Advice and Company investment.