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Usdaw's 'Justice for Injured Workers' campaign is backed by a select committee report

Date: 17 May 2018 Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw has welcomed today’s Justice Select Committee report on a Ministry of Justice proposal to raise the limit for personal injury claims dealt with in a small claims court from £1,000 to £5,000 for RTA cases and to £2000 for workplace and other non RTA injuries.
Steve Mitchell, Usdaw’s Deputy Head of Legal Services, told the Justice Select Committee in January this year that Government reforms would restrict access to justice for victims of workplace accidents or diseases, who will be unfairly penalised as a result of the proposed changes.

John Hannett - Usdaw General Secretary says: “We are delighted that the select committee has listened to our evidence based campaign opposing employer and public liability claims under £2,000 being pushed into the small claims courts. The complexity of workplace injury cases make them entirely unsuitable for a small claims court, where the costs of taking a case cannot be recovered.

“£2,000 is too high and would adversely impact too many injured workers. We would prefer that the limit remains at £1,000, which is a fairer definition of a small claim. However, we recognise that the select committee have recommended an inflationary increase to around £1,500, which is a much more just basis for any increase that the current Government proposals.

“Currently an Usdaw member injured at work receives 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. Raising the small claims court limit could mean some of those costs falling on the victim, which is grossly unjust.

“Beyond the effects on individuals, there could be an effect on health and safety at work. Our efforts to make workplaces safer would be undermined if employers were not financially liable for accidents and diseases because workers’ cannot access justice. Less scrupulous employers will undoubtedly let safety standards slip.

"The Government needs to think very carefully about how they proceed, to ensure that there aren’t unintended consequences for workers’ health and safety. The report from the Justice Select Committee should prompt a government reconsideration of this unjust and unnecessary legislation.”

Case studies of the type of personal injury claim that would be caught by these proposals. Under the Government’s proposals it is unlikely a solicitor would take on the following cases given the amount of work required, complexity and modest amount of damages that could be recovered. On that basis the changes are likely to drive victims to unscrupulous claims management companies:
  • An employee 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 in the absence of relevant documentary evidence and our member was awarded £1,250 in damages. Our member would not have been able to prove negligence without legal representation.
  • A cleaner was injured when a ride-on cleaning machine crashed. The employer denied liability, relying on records showing the equipment had been serviced regularly. This was a complex case requiring legal representation to prove breaches of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations as evidence of negligence. He received £2,000 for general damages.
  • An Usdaw member sustained soft tissue injuries to her knee and shoulder when she slipped on a piece of clear plastic dropped on the floor in the stock room. The employer denied liability and court proceedings had to be commenced by our solicitors. Settled a few weeks prior to the trial, when she accepted a £1,500 settlement, our member would not have been able to pursue this matter without the assistance of solicitors.
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.
Justice Select Committee Report: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmjust/659/659.pdf
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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