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Usdaw criticises a Minister who trivialises injured workers access to justice

Date: 18 December 2018 Shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis has criticised a Justice Minister who today defended the Government’s proposal to increase the small claims court threshold for personal injury cases.
The Government’s proposal to double the threshold for employer liability cases taken in the small claims court to £2,000 needs to be approved by statutory instrument. Usdaw is backing the cross-party Justice Select Committee recommendation of a fair and reasonable compromise increase to £1,500.
Lucy Frazer MP - Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice today told the House of Commons in Justice Questions that the proposal “will give those affected the opportunity to be heard in an uncomplicated, accessible court, without the need for a lawyer if they so choose” and went on to say “I should also mention that the Ministry of Justice has brought forward and is progressing an online system for money claims, which is achieving a great deal of satisfaction among users.”
Paddy Lillis - Usdaw General Secretary says: “I was very disappointed to hear the Minister trivialise their unfair and unnecessary measures that will significantly restrict access to justice for injured workers. The only beneficiaries of this will be unscrupulous employers and claims management companies.
“It is entirely misleading to suggest that raising the small claims limit offers choice to injured workers and misunderstands the often complicated issues that have to be addressed in these cases. They cannot easily be done by a litigant in person, unrepresented and facing their employer in a small claims court. The Government has confirmed on a number of occasions that employers’ liability cases will not be included in the ‘portal’ that the MoJ are developing for litigants in person, so we don’t know why the Minister mentioned the ‘portal’ today.
“Our campaign continues, because the threshold increase for employer liability cases has yet to be adopted through the statutory instrument process. We will be seeking a vote of the whole House of Commons and asking MPs to support our campaign to stop the Government forcing more injured workers into the small claims court, where the costs of legal representation cannot be recovered from negligent employers. We want the Government to accept the reasonable and fair compromise of raising the threshold to £1,500.
“Access to justice is a fundamental right for everyone, which helps ensure the rule of law as passed by Parliament is observed. We will not stand idly by while the Government restricts access to justice for injured workers.”
Usdaw believes that an increase to £2,000 in the small claims threshold will:
  • Leave tens of thousands of injured workers without legal representation, because those costs cannot be awarded against negligent employers when the case is heard in the small claims court.
  • Put people off bringing valid claims before the courts and create an imbalance in legal representation between claimants and defendants.
  • Worsen workplace health and safety standards by making it less likely that negligent employers will be penalised, increasing the risk of an employee being injured while also restricting their ability to seek redress.
  • Significantly increase incidents of cold calling and fraudulent claims, because case management companies will fill the vacuum created when regulated solicitors are forced to leave the market.
  • Create court chaos as employer liability cases clog up the small claims system that was not designed to deal with complex employer liability cases.
  • Impact access to justice for workers resident in Northern Ireland and Scotland who are injured while in England or Wales.
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with around 430,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 28% over the decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
House of Commons Justice Questions - 18 December 2018 - Legal Advice: Workplace Injuries https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2018-12-18/debates/11B7E148-E960-491B-BF93-A5882E5BEB0D/LegalAdviceWorkplaceInjuries
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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