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February 13, 2009

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Government committed to justice for pleural-plaques sufferers

The prime minister has reassured MPs that the Government is committed to finding a solution to the situation regarding pleural plaques, and will make an announcement very soon.

Gordon Brown’s statement came in Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, in response to a question from Michael Clapham MP on whether he agreed that the only way to restore justice to sufferers of pleural plaques was to overturn the Law Lords’ ruling. Their decision, in October 2007, determined that pleural plaques are not an “actionable injury” eligible for compensation. (For an overview of this decision and the legal reasoning which led to it, see Mike Boyle’s article for SHP, ‘If it ain’t broke’.)

Although he did not confirm whether the Government would be restoring the law before the Lords’ decision, the PM told the Commons: “It is very important that we get a resolution following the Court judgement on pleural plaques. The Secretary of State for Justice (Jack Straw) has been looking at this matter and talking to his colleagues right across government about the implications of what can be done, and I can assure my honourable Friend that an announcement will be made very soon.”

His commitment was re-emphasised by Justice minister, Bridget Prentice, in a debate that followed. When asked by Rob Marris MP whether she accepted that, for justice to prevail, the law, as interpreted by the House of Lords in its decision, needed changing for the whole of the UK, she said she could “probably agree” with his sentiment. Added the minister: “We need to find a way of ensuring that people get some recompense, because another unwelcome effect of the House of Lords’ judgement was that people diagnosed with pleural plaques were no longer able to establish the employers’ liability of negligence at an early stage.”

She was also quizzed on whether the Government supported the idea of an employers’ liability insurance bureau, and a compulsory insurance register for employers who may later go out of business. The proposals are the focus of a Private Member’s Bill introduced by Andrew Dismore MP, which is scheduled for a second parliamentary reading on 13 March. The minister suggested that this would be a “constructive way forward” and that the Government would wish to consider the proposal more fully.

Ms Prentice also confirmed that a draft Third Parties (Rights Against Insurers) Bill is near the top of the priority list for discussion. This Bill aims to resolve some of the practical problems in enabling claimants to recover damages against their employer even when the employer has become insolvent — an arrangement that is theoretically possible under the Third Parties (Rights Against Insurers) Act 1930.

Meanwhile, the Government confirmed today (13 February) that former employees of Turner and Newall (T&N) with asbestos-related diseases will now be able to keep their full government compensation in addition to any they were paid by the company.

Currently, the government recovers the lump-sum amounts paid out under the Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979 if the recipients also receive T&N compensation. However, since T&N’s parent company, Federal Mogul, went into administration 10 years ago, some victims have received only a fraction of their full compensation from the company, and it is these people who will benefit from the Government’s decision.

Said James Purnell, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions: “It is important that these workers get all the help they can, which is why I have taken this decision. We have been in discussion with those representing the workers and have decided not to make deductions any more. This will mean that those people receiving only a fraction of their full compensation will not be penalised further.
“We will work up the details of how this will be achieved and implemented so that the changes can be brought into effect as soon as possible.”

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.

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