Figures reported by the Health and Safety executive (HSE), the body responsible for prosecuting negligent employers, show a significant fall in the number of people injured at work who pursue damages from their employer. This is despite an increase in the number of people actually injured in the workplace.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) analysed the HSE data and found that in 2022-23, 796,000 workers suffered a work-related injury that caused more than seven days absence or became ill because of their work. This is up 25 per cent since 2018-19. Over the same period, the number of employer liability claims fell by 51 per cent, meaning more workers are becoming ill or are injured because of their work, yet there are fewer claims.
This means that injured and ill workers are now far less likely to seek redress via civil claims. The new data suggests that, of those injured or made ill because of their work in 2022-23, just 5% made an employer liability claim. This is down from 14% in 2018-19.
I tend to represent clients who have suffered very serious injury at work and many of whom have tragically died. Part of the reason for families or the injured bringing a claim is of course for rightful compensation but also often to force a negligent employer to accept responsibility and admit liability. Civil claims for damages often run alongside HSE investigations where the body considers failings to be serious enough and can result in criminal prosecution for both a company and individual directors.
Some of my cases also involve secondary victim claims when family members witness the terrible aftermath of a work incident.
Several reasons might be behind the fall in employer liability claims and I would suggest the increase in the 'gig' economy and in the use of cheap labour from overseas has had an affect on the numbers.
The rise in temporary contracts and gig/zero-hour contracts mean employees may simply be too scared to make a claim and thereby rock the boat. If they have an accident and seek to claim redress from their employers. then they may well find themselves out of work as there will always be someone else ready and available to take their hours.
Media reports around the Sports Direct/Amazon warehouses shows this – people were injured at work because they were tired from doing long shifts and were working in awful conditions, and yet they kept quiet because the alternative is no more hours, no work, no money.
Many of my workplace incident cases involve workers from overseas in the UK to work and send money home to their families. This form of cheap labour from abroad is on the rise and if the employee is injured, they simply don’t know they have recourse to a claim.
All my clients have in this situation have been referred from the Royal London hospital, where luckily medical staff proactively suggest patients get legal advice. We are proud of our relationship with the Royal London and grateful for their referrals to get people they justice they deserve.
You can hear Royal London trauma surgeon Ross Davenport explain the importance of rehabilitation for the injured.
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