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APIL attacks workplace liability law as ‘charter for rogue bosses’

Section 69 of ERR Act will have 'profound' impact on society as a whole

2 October 2013

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The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has attacked a change in the law on liability for workplace accidents, predicting that it will tilt the balance of power away from injured workers and become known as a "charter for rogue bosses".

Under Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, which came into force yesterday, health and safety breaches by employers will no longer automatically carry civil liability.

The measure was defeated by two votes in the House of Lords in March this year but restored by the Commons in April.

"Many people injured through no fault of their own will find it extremely challenging to secure justice," Matthew Stockwell, president of APIL, said.

"The employer holds all the important information about any incident, such as maintenance records or previously reported dangers and risks.

"The injured employee will have to prove the case against his employer, which can be extremely difficult when he does not have access to this kind of information. "Many people will inevitably shy away from making claims altogether. The negligent employer will then avoid making amends, leaving the state to pick up the tab for medical care and any benefits arising from the injury.

"The effects are likely to be profound and the consequences will not just affect the employees, but society as a whole".

Stockwell added that he was confident that good employers would not take advantage of the new law, but rogue employers would.

However Ben Posford, head of catastrophic injury at Osbornes Solicitors, said the new rules could be "largely ineffective".

Despite this, he warned employers that complacency could lead to more charges of corporate manslaughter or sentences for gross negligence manslaughter.

In a separate development, APIL said government plans to introduce a new protocol to speed up mesothelioma claims were "unworkable and unfair". The MoJ's consultation on the changes closes today.

Karl Tonks, former president of APIL, said that under the existing protocol almost a quarter of defendants failed to admit liability.

"These were all cases which the mesothelioma victims won, so there was no valid reason why liability should not have been admitted in the first place," Karl explained.

"By ignoring the way defendants and insurers routinely behave and seeking to impose a new, more rigid system which just plays into their hands, the proposals condemn sick and dying victims to spend their last months wrangling with the very people who have caused their illnesses. Where is the fairness in that?"

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