New compensation scheme for workers with industrial disease

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Workers who develop serious illnesses relating to their jobs may be able to access a new compensation claim scheme. The government is now considering the creation of an Employer's Liability Bureau (ELIB) which would collect a small premium from employers to be paid into a central fund.

The idea is that when people develop serious work-related illnesses like mesothelioma and asbestosis and no insurer can be found, they would be able to claim compensation from ELIB. At the moment, people who are suffering from occupational illness in these circumstances are not able to claim compensation.

The construction industry union Ucatt has long lobbied for this fund to be set up so that people with work-related illnesses can claim compensation. Workers who have been exposed to harmful asbestos and not been given the correct protective equipment are most at risk of developing life-threatening illnesses like mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Slips and falls at work can also cause long-lasting damage to a person's health.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is also looking into the possibility of setting up an Employers' Liability Tracing Service which would help people suffering from work-related illnesses to track down their employer's liability insurance policies and speed up the process of claiming compensation for their industrial disease.

DWP minister Lord McKenzie said: "Far too many people suffering from serious industrial diseases are unable to trace their insurance polices and get the compensation they deserve."

"That is why we want to set up a better tracing service with a dedicated database to help them track down these policies, and a fund of last resort if all else fails."

If ELIB comes into existence it will be similar to the Motor Insurance Bureau which provides compensation for accidents involving uninsured drivers.

However, there is some opposition to the scheme from the Association of British Insurers (ABI). Its director of general insurance and health, Nick Starling, said: "We recognise how important it is that anyone with an injury or disease claim caused through their work is able to trace their employer or its insurer to claim against. This is why we set up the ABI Tracing Code a decade ago."

"Over 98% of employers' liability claimants are able to claim if they have suffered an injury or disease caused by their work and insurers pay out £1.5 billion a year in compensation. But we want to do more to help the small number of claimants who cannot trace the relevant insurer. We are discussing with the Government whether an Employers' Liability Tracing Office would achieve this."

"However, we are opposed in principle to the proposed ELIB. It cannot be right that today's law-abiding employers should have to pay for their potentially uninsured competitors or firms that now no longer exist and who may not have had insurance. Such a fund could also encourage some employers not to bother with insurance, or to take the health and safety of their employees less seriously, knowing that a fund of last resort would pay out. In short, there is a serious moral hazard involved in this proposal."

"We will be responding in detail to this consultation, and will continue to discuss with the Government ways in which we can ensure that as much help as possible is available to claimants."

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