New clause would require employees to prove negligence of employer to claim compensation

by duncan12 on November 6, 2012

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The impact assessment drawn up for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) says a new clause to be introduced in the enterprise and regulatory reform bill would reduce the number of claims brought against companies but may increase the frequency of courtroom battles.

Personal injury negligence lawyer say that the bill would put onus on workers to prove company negligence which would favour the insurance industry on the expense of taxpayer.

Injured employees would receive much less compensation under proposals which are aimed at taking lesser cognizance under health and safety at work regulations’ a policy document with government admits.

The sweeping legislation is being proposed to remove existing strict liability responsibilities imposed on all firms for accidents at work. In future workers would have to prove company negligence.

The change has been condemned by a senior personal injury negligence lawyer who said that it was designed to protect insurance industry at the expense of the taxpayer. Even the TUC is planning to oppose the proposal.

The new clause 14 was slipped into the bill last month as part of the government’s campaign against “compensation culture” and excessive regulatory red tape.

Introducing the proposal, the Conservative minister Matthew Hancock declared that it was going to act in accordance with the government’s commitment in its budget to introduce measures to reduce the burden of health and safety. it was going to reassure the employers that they would be liable to pay compensation only when it can be proved that they have been negligent.

The official impact assessment form drawn up by the Health and Safety Executive for BIS was unambiguous in setting out the consequences of overturning legislation in place since the 1970s.

It stated that claimants may pursue fewer cases and receive less compensation, while conceding that it may result in “a possible increase in certain legal costs where out-of-court settlements would end up at courts.

The objective of the document was to address the unfairness which results when an employer, due to a strict liability duty, was found liable to pay damages to an employee despite having taken all reasonable steps to protect them.

This policy is aimed at tackling the civil litigation system under reforms where the compensation culture and its effect have a driver for over compliance with health and safety at work regulations.

But some experts fear it tilts the balance too far in favour of the employer. Andrew Ritchie QC, vice-chairman of the Personal Injuries Bar Association, said the bill would make it extremely difficult for those hurt at work to prove negligence and the balance would tilt in favour of employers with all relevant information in the possession of the employer, the very reason why strict liability was applied and which was going to be defeated by the legislation.

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