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17 November 2013 / legal-blog
A blog article by Jonathan White
On the face of it the latest set of figures from the Health and Safety Executive look encouraging: workplace deaths down to only 148 in 2012. But behind these figures lies a more concerning picture.
Closer examination reveals that 13,000 workers died from occupational related ill health – a figure expected to increase. 175,000 people sustained injuries requiring more than a week off work and over a million people are suffering from an occupational illness.
In light of these appalling figures you might expect an epidemic of claims – caused by the compensation culture which is allegedly crippling UK businesses. However, there is no such culture in employers’ liability, as according to Department of Work and Pension figures, claims arising from accidents at work are now at 40% of the levels found between 2000 and 2005.
So, in response to appalling rates of occupational illness and injury and a significant decline in work related compensation claims you might expect the government to create policies designed to protect workers from harm and promote access to justice. The government’s actual approach is buried in Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act which at a stroke nullifies legislation designed to safeguard workers. The government’s civil litigation reforms create a double whammy for injured employees. At a time when the Enterprise Act exponentially increases the complexity of claims the government has imposed a cap on the legal costs that can be employed to prove fault. This arguably creates a charter for rogue companies to ignore the safety of workers and for insurers to use cynical tactics to obstruct genuine clams by, for example, ignoring the new EL/PL portal as we are seeing already.
This all means that those representing injured employees will need to fight harder than ever and up their game in promoting access to Justice. Test cases will need to be fought, rogue companies exposed and insurers challenged where they seek to exploit the system. The injured employee will become more of an underdog than ever unless those representing them rise to the challenges presented by the recent reforms. National Accident Helpline is certainly up for this particular fight.
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