There Is No “Compensation Culture”

17 Jul 2010

There has been a dramatic decline in compensation claims for work-related injury and ill-health, union legal advisers have told a government-commissioned enquiry. A submission to Lord Young’s review from Thompsons Solicitors, a law firm providing personal injury legal support to unions, notes: ‘Over the last decade the numbers of union-backed personal injury claims have fallen and the overall number of employers’ liability claims (union and non-union) have fallen.’

It points to the government’s own Compensation Recovery Unit (CRU) statistics which show ‘that employer liability claims have fallen 69 per cent from 2000/01 to 2009/10 - from 219,183 in 2000/1 to 78,744 in 2009/10.’ It notes that research suggests fewer than a third of those eligible to make a workplace injury claim actually do so. Claims are also down for clinical negligence and public liability, with only road traffic accidents on the upturn. The law firm says the way to reduce work-related claims, is to make work safer. ‘The reality is that it is the inadequate enforcement of health and safety legislation, the under resourcing of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the insufficient numbers of inspectors and the too few prosecutions of employers that leads to thousands of people continuing to be injured and killed at work,’ the Thompsons’ submission notes.

It backs explicit directors’ duties on safety, linking fines to turnover and ‘ring fencing the HSE’s budget so that inspector levels can at least be brought up to pre-2004 levels.’ The submission agrees with Lord Young that the ‘perception’ of health and safety being a problem is the real problem, and advises the former Tory minister to back the HSE’s ‘myth of the month’ rather than undermine the already limited legal safety protection.