“If an effective system can be set up, funded and administered for all 26 million vehicles on the British roads, there is no reason why something similar could not be established for the employers’ liability compulsory insurance policies of the 1.2 million UK businesses with employees. This would provide a vital safety net for people who need it when they are at their most vulnerable.”
So say the Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety, an all-party group of MPs who are supporting the Employers’ Liability Insurance Bureau Bill. This seeks to set up a body to provide compensation to injured workers, if their employer has no insurance, or if the relevant insurers cannot be identified.
The Private Member’s Bill, put forward by the vice-chair of the group, Andrew Dismore MP, proposes an arrangement similar to that of the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB), which compensates victims injured by uninsured and untraced drivers.
Mr. Dismore argues that those injured at work should not be treated any less favourably than those injured in road traffic accidents. Although it is estimated that 99.5% of employers now have Employers’ Liability Insurance in place, prior to 1972 when such insurance became compulsory, compliance is estimated to have been around only 90%. This is a particular problem for employees who are diagnosed with occupational diseases many years after their employers have ceased trading. Due to missing and incomplete historical insurance records, the tracing service operated by the Association of British Insurers is said to be successful in tracing insurers in around only 35% of the enquiries received. Where employers are insolvent or have ceased trading, and the insurers cannot be traced, former employees of those companies are left with no means of obtaining compensation.
The Bill will receive a Second Reading in the House of Commons on 16 October 2009. Realistically, the Bill will require Government support if it is to become law. The Government has previously rejected calls to establish such a Bureau, claiming it would be prohibitively expensive. The Bill proposes that, as in the case of the MIB with Motor Insurers, the cost of establishing and running the Bureau should be funded by levies on all Insurers’ underwriting Employers’ Liability policies in the UK, as they have the benefit of a “captive market” created by the statutory obligation on employers to obtain such cover. It remains to be seen whether the Bill will result in any change in the Government’s position on this issue.