Britain’s largest union, Unite, accused the government of using a supposed ‘endemic’ of whiplash claims to prepare a secret assault on workers injured at work.
Responding to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation launched today (Thursday 17 November) on whiplash claims, the union pointed to proposals to raise the limit for cases in the small claims court for all personal injury claims, including workplace accidents, from £1,000 to £5,000.
Unite believes the move to include workplace accidents will deny workers access to justice and mask future serious health and safety risks which litigation has previously played a vital role in uncovering, such as mesothelioma and toxic cabin air.
Pointing to pleural plaques litigation which saw damages mainly under £5,000, Unite argues that had an increased limit on compensation been in place for workplace accidents, asbestos in the workplace would have continued and many more people would have died of mesothelioma related diseases.
Commenting Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, said: “Despite initially saying the rise in the compensation cap would apply to whiplash claims only the government has snuck in plans for it to cover workplace accidents too. This smacks of nothing less than a secret assault on workers injured at work by a government which professes to govern for all.
“The principle of the small claims provisions is that injuries are so minor, and cases so straightforward as to not need legal representation. Patently that is not true of workplace accidents and diseases where the employer and insurance company have substantial resources to defend any legal action.
“As they stand the plans will price workers out of justice leaving them unable to recover legal costs and result in workplaces becoming more dangerous and workplace diseases going unchecked.
“There are men and women today who were made sick or injured at work who have had their suffering in some way eased because their union could fight for them.
“Is the government seriously saying that this must cease, stacking the odds in the favour of negligent companies and the insurance industry?
“If that is the case then this government has got its priorities all wrong, and the prime minister Theresa May’s pledge to stand up for working people is in tatters. I would urge the government to think again and exempt workplace accidents from these proposals.”