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Minister misses the point as the Government moves to restrict access to justice for injured workers - Usdaw's campaign continues

Date: 11 July 2018 Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw is campaigning against Government proposals that will restrict injured workers access to justice by pushing more cases through the small claims court.
Responding to Ruth George MP (Lab, High Peak) asking, “How are <injured workers> supposed to stand up, unrepresented, to their employer and their insurance company?” Justice Minister Rory Stewart MP appeared to miss the point of the Government’s proposals when he claimed, “The entire purpose of the small claims court is to make sure that minor injuries are dealt with without lawyers.”

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “From the Minister’s response I am not convinced the Government has thoroughly thought through its proposals. Forcing more injured workers through the small claims court means that they cannot recover costs for legal representation. So, whilst workers with claims worth under £2,000 will in all likelihood be forced to represent themselves in court, the negligent employers and their insurers will continue to be advised and represented by expensive lawyers.

“The principle of equality of arms and both parties being on an equal footing is a cornerstone of our system of civil justice and we urge the Government to rethink their proposals before they bring the Civil Liability Bill to Parliament in the Autumn.

“Usdaw members injured at work receive a first-class legal service from the union and 100% of the compensation recovered. Workplace injuries and diseases are often complicated cases that cannot easily be taken by individuals without proper legal representation. That will have a knock-on effect for workplace health and safety, as less scrupulous employers let standards slip because they know they’re unlikely to face the consequences in court.”

Case study: An Usdaw member suffered a head injury when struck by a heavy metal bolt that fell from a roller shutter door. Liability was denied by the employer who alleged that their system of inspection and maintenance of the doors prior to the accident was reasonable. Solicitors provided by Usdaw were able to demonstrate negligence and our member was awarded £1,250 in damages.

Under the Government’s proposals it is unlikely a solicitor would take on this case given the amount of work required, complexity and modest amount of damages that could be recovered. Our member would not have been able to prove negligence without legal representation.

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 435,000 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.
 
Justice Questions: Hansard, Tuesday 10 July 2018, column 854 http://bit.ly/2ur5YPU
 
For further information please contact Usdaw’s Media Officer, David Williams on: 0161 249 2469, 07798 696 603 or by e-mail to david.a.williams@usdaw.org.uk
 
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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