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April 17, 2013

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Strict-liability proposal could amount to “nationalisation of rehabilitation”

The Government has reintroduced a proposal to reform the civil-compensation regime by removing strict liability for certain health and safety breaches, despite the House of Lords blocking the plans last month.

Debating a number of amendments from the Lords to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill yesterday (16 April), Business minister Jo Swinson MP told the Commons that the Government’s plans are an “important element of [its] wider health and safety reforms to tackle both the perception of a compensation culture and the damaging effect that this has on both sensible health and safety management and on business growth, and these are concerns consistently reported by business”.

She continued: “The Government doesn’t believe that it’s justifiable to hold employers liable for incidents outside of their control, which they could not have reasonably prevented.”

She reiterated a view expressed by Viscount Younger of Leckie, during the House of Lords debate in March, that the modern framework of law and supporting guidance place employees in a much better position than they have been, historically, to demonstrate whether their employer is at fault for their injuries.

Concluded Ms Swinson: “This reform will mean that, in future, there will be a consistent approach to civil litigation across all health and safety legislation. This is simpler for all to understand and will therefore have a greater impact in increasing employers’ confidence to do the right thing to protect their employees and develop and grow their business.”

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said the reintroduced proposal would have the effect of overturning an accepted and established regime for health and safety that has survived for more than a century.

“It would force injured employees to face a near-impossible evidential burden in respect of employers’ liability,” he explained.

“This is not business as usual. The beneficiaries of this will be providers of employers’ liability insurance. The losers will include taxpayers, because reduced compensation will reduce benefit recovery.”

Andy McDonald MP agreed, pointing out that there are currently 78,000 civil claims for injuries in the workplace every year compared with around 1000 health and safety prosecutions. The amendment, he explained, would create a singular reliance on the HSE doing a better job than it does now – an unlikely prospect, given the resources currently at its disposal.

Describing the proposal as “the nationalisation of rehabilitation”, he said injured people unable to access compensation would instead turn to the statutory services.

“Are the Government serious about nationalising rehabilitation and giving the bill to the taxpayer while letting the insurers off the hook? Insurers are rubbing their hands in glee at these proposals, and it is about time that this Government woke up. It will cost this country a fortune if they proceed in this way.”

Commenting in advance of the debate, the Forum of Private Business said the fear of a ‘compensation culture’ is costing small businesses.

A spokesperson said: “For years, small businesses have been over-compliant with health and safety, at enormous cost. This is because of the fear of the ‘claims culture’, as well as private-sector consultants who encourage clients to go above and beyond health and safety requirements in law.

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11 years ago

Another example of selective House of Lords intervention?

Why have this body, if you can then decide what to adopt and what not too adopt?

Refer to the previous article for my interpretation of Viscount Leckie`s considered opinion?
A truely appalling justification in my opinion?

HSE do not have the resourses to investigate all of the 78000 insurance cases noted. That`s what insurance is for? Loss Adjusters are paid huge fees to reduce costs.

Where is the validity in that satement?

11 years ago

Who will benefit, as always, follow the money. The proposed changes are all about ideaology and will certainly benefit businesses from lower insurance costs. Sod the people injured by poor workplaces and managers. With the changes in place for legal aid etc the only people who will be entiltled to justice are the very rich. Do we really expect anything else from Tories, Big Society? PAH.

11 years ago

Seams like a battle between well understood ‘custom & practice’ and ‘social mythology’ of the over there US claim culture coming over here although, according to TUC less than 1 in 10 of potential claimants actually proceed to make a claim……….

Now whether because they might not have a leg to stand on or are too tired, ill or stressed I don’t know accepting there always be one who fancies themselves as what used to be called the ‘barrack room lawyer’ how many carry their injury forward !!!

11 years ago

It is not sensible to suggest the proposals are just ideaology. There are far too many preposterous claims for compensation when we know that life is dangerous. People trip up, they slip on wet surfaces, it rains, slabs settle, pavings crack. Cliffs have sheer drops, mountains have rocky paths, climbing rocks on the seashore may lead to fractures. It is about time this nation decided whether it is risk averse in everything or we are prepared to accept responsibility for our own actions. Man up?