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Compensation Claims – Who Benefits?


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In a week where two more successful compensation claims have gone through the courts, an article in the Independent says that 'compensation culture' is becoming endemic.

Commenting on the £1.2 million paid out to eight former employees of North West Water for the condition known as 'Vibration White Finger' (caused by the repeated use of vibrating tools at work) and the £100,000 awarded to a former manager of Lloyds Bank for succumbing to a nervous breakdown, the paper does not suggest that either claim is unjustified, but in both cases, constructive HR policies were either not in place or were not followed through correctly. The North West Water workers do not appear to have passed through any health checks, and, although they were promised re-training, alternative employment was not offered.

Policies of reducing staff and increasing the workload of those remaining could leave companies vunerable to claims like that of bank manager Mr North, who had worked for the company for 27 years. Financial institutions will be particularly concerned, as this is the first successful claim made against the banking industry.

Industrial tribunals are increasingly featuring diagnoses of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which still remains a controversial claim on which to base a case for compensation. Dr Derek Summerfield, who was speaking at the Royal College of Psychiatrist's conference earlier this year, is quoted by the paper as saying that the sharp rise in claims is due at least in part to the number of people seeking financial gain and victim status for 'unremarkable events'.

The article is most concerned with the effect that an increase in claims can have on the poorer members of society. Apparently more and more claims are being put through solicitors offices and insurance firms rather than courts, which is having the effect of pushing up the cost of insurance for events like ill health and unemployment. The best deterrent for companies must be to have effective health and safety and employee welfare policies in place which are correctly followed.

Anyone requiring further evidence should read the factsheets on workplace injuries produced by the Health and Safety Executive, who also have a list of organisations able to offer help and advice on their website.


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