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Injured workers face a double whammy from the Civil Liability Bill, Usdaw tells a Labour fringe meeting

Date: 23 September 2018 Shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis has today called on the Government to pull back from deeply damaging proposals in the Civil Liability Bill, which leaves workers facing the double whammy of worsening health and safety conditions and restricted access to justice.
The Government is proposing to force more injured workers through the small claims court by doubling the threshold to £2,000 in measures linked to the Civil Liability Bill. They have rejected a reasonable and fair compromise of raising the threshold to £1,500, which is backed by the independent cross-party Justice Select Committee.

Speaking at a Labour conference fringe meeting in Liverpool, Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary said: “Workplace injuries are often complicated issues that cannot easily be taken up by individual workers without proper professional representation. That is why the Civil Liability Bill is very much a trade union issue as it undermines the rights of all injured people and threatens workers’ health and safety.

“Usdaw’s review of our own cases suggests that the proposed increase to £2,000 will lead to a fivefold increase in the number of workers falling within the small claims limit. This means that tens of thousands of injured workers will no longer receive legal advice in often complex cases against their employers. However, employers will of course continue paying for lawyers to represent their interests, while workers will be forced to represent themselves.

“Reducing the ability of workers to take legal action will inevitably lead to an erosion of Health and Safety in the workplace. We know that the fear of legal action is one of the primary drivers for health and safety being a priority in the workplace. The projected massive fall off in the number of claims as a result of these changes will inevitably lead to a reduction in health and safety measures, as employers will let standards slip because they know they’re unlikely to face the consequences in court.

“This is a double whammy for injured workers. The Bill, if implemented, will increase the prospects of workers having an injury at work, while simultaneously restricting their ability to get justice and redress through the courts if they sustain injury.

“Usdaw supports the conclusions of the cross party Justice Select Committee which was scathing in its criticism of the proposed increase in the small claims limit. The committee shared our concerns that any increase above an inflationary rise to £1,500 would severely restrict access to justice and would have a detrimental impact on health and safety standards in workplaces across England and Wales.

“It is clear that the proposed reforms are unfair, unnecessary and an assault on workers access to justice. The only beneficiaries of this unfair legislation will be unscrupulous employers. Usdaw will continue to campaign loudly and effectively to stop this attack on access to justice for injured workers.”
Usdaw is deeply concerned that the Government is trivialising serious injuries incurred at work where the employer is at fault, by forcing victims into the small claims court. Usdaw is asking MPs if these injuries would be a small issue if an accident resulted in a worker suffering:
  • A black eye, broken nose and split lip.
  • Back pain so bad they cannot pick up their own child.
  • Facial injuries and scarring.
  • An ankle injury that stops them from driving for months.
  • Anxiety attacks when they go back to work after being assaulted by a shoplifter.
Usdaw believes that the increase in the small claims limit will:
  • Prevent meritorious claims being brought before the courts and will create an imbalance in legal representation between claimants and defendants.
  • Worsen health and safety standards within the workplace, increasing the risk of an employee being injured while restricting their ability to seek redress.
  • Significantly increase incidents of cold calling and fraudulent claims, because of the prevalence of case management companies who will fill the vacuum created when regulated solicitors are forced to leave the market. 
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with over 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.
Public Bill Committee - 11 September 2018 - Civil Liability Bill (Lords)
House of Commons Justice Committee - Small claims limit for personal injury -
Seventh Report of Session 2017–19: “81. We are deeply unimpressed by the Ministry of Justice’s inability to quantify the potential impact of raising to £2,000 the small claims limit for employer liability and public liability claims. Given the potential complexity of these claims for self-represented claimants and evidence of the role of litigation in maintaining safe and healthy workplaces, we recommend that they continue to be subject to the lowest small claims threshold—which we have recommended should be set at around £1,500 to take account of inflation since 1999.” 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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