Issue date
31 Jul 2013

date: 30 July 2013

embargo: 00:01 hours Wednesday 31 July 2013

A TUC-backed report has today (Wednesday) accused the government of being dishonest about the UK's 'compensation culture' in order to justify cutting basic health and safety protections at work. It warns that thousands of workers suffering deadly occupational diseases are being denied payouts as a result of these cutbacks.

The report, by the workers' health journal Hazards, shows that far from being a compensation free-for-all, as ministers claim, the number of people actually receiving awards for work-related injuries or diseases has fallen by 60 per cent over the last decade - down from 219,183 in 2000/01 to 87,655 in 2011/12.

The report, based on official government figures, shows even the families of those dying from occupational diseases have little chance of securing a payout.

For most occupational cancers the chances of getting any compensation payout is below 1 in 50. While more than 4,000 workers a year die of work-related chronic bronchitis and emphysema, just 59 received compensation in 2011/12.

For those suffering from work-related stress, anxiety and depression the chances of getting compensation are even smaller. Of the 221,000 cases in 2011/12, just 293 resulted in a payout.

The TUC says the findings reveal the true extent of compensation payouts in the UK and suggests that by spreading myths to justify weakening health and safety laws, the government is making it even harder for victims to get justice.

The report says ministers have cynically exaggerated vexatious claims in order to introduce a series of policies that make it harder for victims to seek compensation.

Since coming to power the government has slashed the coverage and budget of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, and outlawed strict liability claims where there has been a criminal breach of safety law by the employer but negligence hasn't been proven. In addition, ministers have cut the number of workplace inspections carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

A series of government measures are also creating costly barriers stopping many of those injured or made ill by their jobs from seeking compensation through the courts, says the report.

For example in May 2013, the no-win, no-fee conditional fee arrangements, introduced after legal aid was abolished for personal injury claims, were tweaked so victims now give an unhealthy slice - up to 25 per cent - of any payout to the lawyers.

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: 'The government is trying to brainwash people into thinking the UK has a rife compensation culture.

'However, the facts tell a very different story. Even those dying from work-related diseases have precious little chance of getting a payout.

'The true government motive here is to weaken health and safety laws and make it harder to for victims to pursue claims. Unfortunately the end result is likely to be a much higher rate of workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses in the future.'

Hazards Editor Rory O'Neill, Professor of Occupational Health at Stirling University and the author of the report, said: 'The government's cynical promotion of a compensation culture myth means many workers who are dying in pain are also dying in poverty.

'We are seeing a denial of justice because the government is putting the health of the insurance industry and the safety of the most dangerous rogues in the business community over the health, safety and survival of people at work.'

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- Total number of people receiving compensation rewards

2000/1

2011/2012

219,183

87,655

Source: Health and Safety Executive/government figures

- Proportion of people receiving a civil compensation payout 2011/12 by condition

Condition

Proportion

Work-related illness

1 in 26

Work-related skin disease

1 in 40

Occupational cancer (other than Mesothelioma)

1 in 52

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

1 in 68

Work-related stress, anxiety and depression

1 in 754

Source: Health and Safety Executive/government figures

- A copy of the Hazards report can be found at: http://www.hazards.org/votetodie/robbed.htm

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Media enquiries:
Alex Rossiter T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07887 572130 E: arossiter@tuc.org.uk