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May 5, 2011

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Employers’ liability tracing office now live

An online inquiry service designed to help claimants suffering from a work-related disease or injury find the insurer of their former employer is now live.

In February, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) announced new regulations requiring insurers to publish data on EL policies and all new claims made against them, by no later than 1 July 2011. A further requirement to collect additional data, such as subsidiary company information and employer reference numbers, comes into force from April next year.

Under the previous voluntary code of practice, which was originally set up in 1999, insurers were given details by the claimant or representative and were asked to search their records, but this approach did not provide an immediate result.

The new Employers’ Liability Tracing Office (ELTO) will maintain an electronic database containing all new and renewed EL insurance policies from April this year, older policies that have new claims made against them, and policies that were identified through the previous code of practice.

The results of a search will be available immediately, but in cases where no result is returned, details of the query will be sent to each insurance company to check their own records for older policies. Any policies subsequently traced will then also be uploaded on the database.

Following the announcement of the FSA rules, Nick Starling, director-general –insurance and health at the Association of British Insurers (ABI), said: “The FSA’s regulations will improve the current situation for both lawyers and claimants, as all insurers will be now be required to publish their data, making any search much more thorough. We welcome this move to help speed up the process for claimants and lawyers to identify the holder of their EL policy.

“The inclusion of new information, such as the employer reference number – sometimes called the PAYE number – should also increase the amount of successful searches for EL policies and help claimants to start their claim process much sooner.”
Insurers that are registered ELTO members will be audited to ensure they are uploading the correct information to the database within a given timescale, and that they are checking their policy records for searches that don’t provide any results from the database.

A government consultation seeking views on proposals to create the ELTO, as well as an Employers’ Liability Insurance Bureau (ELIB) to provide a ‘fund of last resort’ for those unable to trace policies, was launched in February last year. However, the present Government has yet to publish the results of the consultation and, last week, employment minister Chris Grayling told the House of Commons that the DWP is still considering “how to progress the matter”.

The ABI has expressed concerns that an ELIB could cause some employers not to bother with insurance, knowing that a fund of last resort would pay out in the event of a successful claim.

George Guy, acting general secretary of UCATT, described the ELTO as “a fudge”. He added: “In truth, very few asbestos victims will be able to gain justice by using the Tracing Service. In the majority of these cases, companies no longer exist, or the workers were never insured. That is why the creation of the Employers’ Liability Insurance Bureau is so critical.”

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