The Apology Clause campaign has launched this week. It aims to make it easier for businesses to behave with compassion, instead of fearing the law, and for victims to get apologies they deserve, so helping their recovery.
Too often, when things go wrong, businesses are forced to choose between their fear of the law and what they might believe is their moral obligation.
In practice, this sometimes results in doing the right thing: apologising when something terrible has happened, which might help victims overcome trauma and move on with their lives.
Or it could result in the business clamming up, executives putting their heads down and saying nothing to “protect themselves legally”.
Unfortunately, the latter approach is all too common, under pressure from legal advisors, insurers and very often conventional wisdom.
That can hurt a company’s reputation. It can prolong the suffering for victims. And it is completely needless.
The law is very clear. The Compensation Act 2006 says: “an apology, an offer of treatment or other redress, shall not itself amount to an admission of negligence or breach of statutory duty”.
In other words, it is OK to act with humanity without fear of paying a price for it. But doing that is not how things always play out.
This law is not well known in the business, legal, insurance and communications worlds, and it needs to be.
Some say that as a piece of law it is not as clear as it should be. That also needs to be put right.
Apologies are important, not just for the reputations of individual businesses involved. They make a real difference to people who have suffered. They can help victims recover and move on with their lives, rather than sometimes being frozen in the moment of their deepest trauma.
That’s why I am so glad to be one of the people to launch this important campaign.
We launched on BBC Radio 4’s “Law in Action” programme (listen below).
Host Joshua Rozenberg interviewed Faizah Shaheen, who did not receive an apology when detained for reading a book about Syria, the very impressive Prue Vines, an expert in this area (and professor of law at the University of New South Wales and visiting professor at the University of Strathclyde), and me.
We argue companies can (and should) apologise when things go wrong, without it being seen as an admission of negligence.
Too many victims of corporate failures wait for too long before their concerns are acknowledged with a meaningful apology.
Our campaign aims to change this and bring the UK into line with other countries.
Please support the campaign by letting us know, through the petition on our web site, by writing to your MP (details on our site), encouraging others to speak up or passing the word on to clients, law firms, insurers, the media and your friends.
Web site: www.apologyclause.com
Twitter: @ApologyClause #ApologyClause