An unlikely coalition of insurers, claimant lawyers and trade unionists is emerging in opposition to the government's plan to rethink workplace injury claims.
Senior representatives of union Usdaw, the Association of British Insurers and claimant firm Thompsons Solicitors met last week in a bid to stop proposals to double the qualifying threshold for the small claims court.
Under the Civil Liability Act passed in 2018, the Ministry of Justice has plans to increase the limit from £1,000 to £2,000 for employers’ liability and public liability claims, although no timescale has been set. Indeed, the government has been more concerned with increasing the small claims limit to £5,000 for RTA claims, developing an online system which is due to go live in August and has no provision for EL or PL claims.
Now campaigners are renewing their efforts to persuade the MoJ not to change the rules for non-RTA claims. There remains a sense that EL and PL claims are being unwittingly and unfairly included in the government’s desire to reduce whiplash claims.
Speaking at last week's meeting, Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: ‘While there are different opinions on the changes relating to whiplash claims, a consensus has emerged that the government should not pursue the proposal to increase the small claims limit for employer’s liability claims.
‘Our main objection is increasing the small claims limit will unnecessarily restrict access to justice for tens of thousands of injured workers. It will also have a negative impact on health & safety standards in workplaces.’
Increasing the limit to £2,000 will effectively mean that legal costs for claims worth less than that cannot be recovered from defendants. Opponents will be buoyed by support from the ABI, which has vigorously fought for changes to RTA claims but has reaffirmed it is willing to concede ground on employers’ liability.
James Dalton, director of the ABI, said: ‘Workplace safety is an absolutely critical component of the world of work. What has never been the priority for us is employer liability and public liability cases, so we’re happy to support this campaign.’
Speaking at the same meeting, Law Society head of justice Richard Miller pointed out that an increase small claims limit presents particular problems with medical reports. Under the proposal, claimants would have to fund their own medical report.
Several Labour MPs attended the meeting to show their support for the campaign, and there was agreement that Conservative MPs should be approached to generate cross-party consensus.