Workplace compensation cases have fallen by more than 50 per cent in the last decade, reveals a new joint report published today (Wednesday) by the TUC and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).
It is common to hear stories that the UK is rife with a compensation culture and is becoming risk averse as a result of compensation claims. However, The Compensation Myth – which tackles seven myths about compensation – smashes this misconception and finds that there were 183,342 compensation claims in 2002/03 but only 91,115 in 2012/13, a fall of more than 50 per cent.
In spite of this decline in the number of cases staff are taking to court, the government is making it even harder for workers to pursue claims of employer negligence by taking the burden of proof away from the employer and increasing the costs employees have to pay to have their case heard.
The report also finds that more than six out of seven (85.7 per cent) of workers who are injured or made ill at work get no compensation whatsoever.
Each year around 500,000 people are made ill as a result of their job and a further 110,000 are injured while carrying out their daily duties. The most common injuries include musculoskeletal disorders such as back problems or repetitive strain injury, injuries from slips and falls, skin diseases and hearing problems. However, only around 90,000 workers manage to gain any compensation from their employer following an injury or accident in their office or workplace.
Another common perception that the report rebuffs is the size of compensation payments. According to an analysis of nearly 64,000 claims in 2011, the majority of workplace damages paid to injured workers was for less than £5,000, and around 75 per cent of cases are for damages of less than £10,000.
Unlike in some other countries, compensation payouts in the UK are strictly based on what the claimant has lost. They are designed to compensate for actual loss, including pain and suffering, loss of earnings and future losses, all of which are very carefully calculated. These damages are not a gift or a windfall for the injured individual, says the report, as every case is calculated to the penny with the sole aim of putting claimants back to the position they were in before being needlessly and avoidably injured.
In addition to tackling false impressions of compensation in the UK, The Compensation Myth also looks at ways the existing bill could be cut without unnecessarily penalising injured workers. It suggests:
- Employers should stop acting negligently and stop killing and injuring workers. Insurance companies could help by linking premiums much more closely to the actual risk within specific workplaces and more readily offering risk-based premiums that reflect an employer’s health and safety history.
- Employer should ensure that someone is injured or made ill through work has early access to proper rehabilitation, giving the worker more chance to make a full or early recovery.
- Insurance companies should admit liability – where justified – early and follow court rules so that costly medical and legal bills are not run up.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government is forever trying to brainwash us into thinking the UK has a rampant compensation culture, but – as this new report shows – the facts tell a very different story. Even those dying from work-related diseases have precious little chance of getting a decent payout.
“The true government motivation here is to weaken health and safety legislation and make it even harder to for victims to pursue claims against their employers. Unfortunately the end result is likely to be a much higher rate of workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses in the future.”