A campaign to support injured workers who are taking their employer to court has been supported by the British Safety Council and several MPs.
The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, a UK trade union with more than 433,000 members, has been campaigning to lower the threshold limit for the cost of small claims.
A new bill called the Civil Liabilities Bill is currently being processed by the government. It would raise the small claims limit from £1,000 to £2,000 in all cases and from £1,000 to £5,000 in road traffic accident cases. It was designed help prevent vexatious claims against insurance companies for whiplash injuries sustained in vehicle accidents.
This would mean that more workplace injury compensation cases would be dealt with in the small claims court, where no legal costs are usually awarded, even in successful cases.
In a recent House of Commons debate about the bill, Richard Burgon MP argued that this would dissincetivise workers from taking their employer to court.
He said: “When legal fees are not covered, tens of thousands of working people will simply be priced out of obtaining legal assistance, resulting in many pulling, dropping or not pursuing their cases.”
And Ruth George MP, a former Usdaw worker, said that claimants would struggle to win the case without legal representation. She said: “It is extremely difficult to determine liability in the case of many accidents at work.
“Deliveries are made to stores by a third party and there are incidents in warehouses that may be the fault of one party, the fault of another company or the fault of the employee.
Those arguments are exceedingly difficult to pin down, especially for an individual claimant, and they require the assistance of a lawyer.”
The British Safety Council, a charity and corporate membership organisation which works to help protect workers and improve workplace conditions and practices, expressed its support for the Usdaw campaign.
David Parr, Policy and Technical Services Director, said: “Workers should not be prevented from pursuing redress whenever they sustain workplace injury or ill-health through no fault of their own simply because of financial limitations.
“Wherever employers are found to be negligent in the management of workplace health and safety, there should be accountability.
“No-one should be injured or made ill at work, but if they are, workers should have the support and agency to hold the employer to account, so that incidents do not reoccur.”