Friday, 21 March 2014


Mesothelioma is a form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. It is a long-tail disease – which means people exposed to asbestos decades ago are only now discovering the consequences of their employers’ ignorance or negligence.

With people moving in and out of jobs in the industry, and widespread misplacement of insurance and employment records, many sufferers (approximately one in every eight) are unable to trace their employer or insurer to lodge a complaint.

Therefore, I welcomed some new regulations this week that provide for the Secretary of State to establish a long-overdue scheme for mesothelioma victims and their families - who, for decades, have been denied access to the compensation they deserve.  This new law originates from a consultation launched by the last government in February 2010. It follows a long history of Labour interventions to secure justice for mesothelioma sufferers.

In 1969, the Employers Liability Act, required employers to insure against liability for injury or disease to their employees arising out of their employment. The Pneumoconiosis Act in 1979 provided lump sum compensation payments to people suffering from certain dust-related diseases or, if they have died, their dependents, where a claim for damages is not possible because the employer is no longer in business. In 2008, the Mesothelioma Payments Scheme provided lump sum payments for people suffering from diffuse mesothelioma, who are unable to claim compensation from other sources - such as women who washed their husbands’ contaminated clothes, or the self-employed.

This new law provides a legislative framework to make payments to people with the disease who are unable to trace their employer or their Employer’s Liability insurer.
The Scheme will be industry-funded by a levy on currently active insurers in the UK Employers’ Liability market. Insurers have said that provided this levy does not exceed 3% of Gross Written Premiums, they will prevent this additional cost from being passed onto business.

The Scheme is intended as a fund of last resort. Claimants who are unable to trace their employer or their employer’s insurer can apply to the fund. I’m especially pleased that, after all-party pressure, successful applicants will receive 80% of the average compensation of claimants of the same age who have pursued successful civil compensation claims.

I hope that claims can now be progressed and settled quickly.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Women born between 1952 and 1953

Last year, I wrote about the pension issues facing women born between 6 April 1952 and 6 July 1953.[1] Then, foolishly feeling intrepid, and thinking I’d played a small part in getting some improvements, I wrote again to claim a small victory.[2]

I should have known better. No sooner had my blog hit the site than a number of women affected by the changes were busily contacting me to demand that I justify my claim. They posed the sort of questions that would have had Albert Einstein scratching his head and Stephen Hawking turbo-charging his wheelchair.

I had to admit I was flummoxed. I am pretty certain that the changes made last May were for the better – and a small victory flag was justified – but there was no easy consensus as to whether the changes were sufficient to justify the claim that women born between 6 April 1952 and 6 July 1953 were not being disadvantaged.

That’s because it all depends on how you approach the situation, what assumptions are being made – for example, about life expectancy - and who you are being compared with. In fact, the Government thinks that such women are better off under the existing arrangements and also that they will mostly be better off under the new pension arrangements. I’m reminded of the driver who stopped her car to ask for directions and was answered with “Well, if I were going there, I wouldn’t start from here.

Well, we are here. In the last debate, the Minister rebuffed suggestions that the Government report to Parliament on what the actual impact of the changes meant, rather than simply relying on an analysis of what the impact is likely to be.[3]  I expect that in about 50 years’ time, someone will write their PhD thesis on the actual impact of the changes and will still be unable to reach a single conclusion.

So, for now, all I can offer is a comprehensive analysis produced by those very clever people in the House of Commons’ Library.[4]  You can make up your own mind.

Happy reading.