The 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. The Royal Commission on Labour viewed both these doctrines as inequitable and recommended with a majority that a law should be enacted to abolish these defences in case of all workmen. Employers' Liability Act define 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.
Any provision contained in a contract of service or apprenticeship, or in an agreement collateral thereto, shall be void to the extent that it would have the effect of excluding or limiting any liability of the employer in respect of personal injuries caused to the person employed or apprenticed by the negligence of persons in common employment with him.
Persons for whose benefit a statute has been passed may contract with others so as to deprive themselves of the benefit of the statute. The Employers' Liability Act prohibits contracting out.