Expert Workplace Illness Lawyers Call For Widespread Changes
A number of people in the UK taking legal action against their former employers after developing life threatening work-related diseases such as lung-cancer are facing delays of a year to receive their employment records from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
This is denying them compensation at the time they need it and in cases resulting in denial of compensation completely.
The government department is currently unable to provide records quickly as employment history for older workers is held on microfilm, an obsolete technology, which means providing records is labour intensive and difficult.
For many people suffering with disease caused by their occupation, such as lung cancer from exposure to asbestos and other harmful chemicals and fumes, this means they spend a year waiting for their employment records to be provided to them, or to lawyers representing them in a claim against their former employers for failing to protect them while at work.
Now specialist workplace injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have written to HMRC on behalf of clients they represent to try and understand the steps the organisation and the government are taking to help victims of work-related illnesses such as lung cancer, asbestosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Access to work history records kept by the HMRC is vital for those looking to pursue claims against their former employers as they provide the name of the employer that a claimant worked for in any tax year (proof of employment), as well as an indication of the dates of each employment, which ensure the complete work history can be fully investigated.
The dates of employment may be crucial in the case of companies which are no longer in business as in such cases it is essential to trace the identity of the insurer on cover at the time the exposure took place.
Those who have lost loved ones to industrial and work-related diseases are also facing delays in getting justice and compensation for their relatives due to the backlog of work history requests that has built up.
Roger Maddocks, a Partner and expert workplace disease and illness lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said that while the delays in providing work histories can be frustrating for many people, there are some victims of occupational diseases, or families who have lost loved ones, who will never be able to access compensation as a result of HMRC delays in providing employment details.
Expert Opinion“At present HMRC will fast track applications for the work histories made on behalf of claimants suffering from mesothelioma. However, we are told that HMRC will not fast track requests for work histories in other cases including posthumous mesothelioma claims or for living claimants suffering from other terminal conditions, such as asbestos-related lung cancer.
“In many cases delays can be a full year and these delays meant that in many cases the claim cannot be made. This means victims are unable to access compensation when, if they are terminally ill, it is most needed.
“There is also the possibility that individuals suffering from these terrible work-related diseases and illnesses die before the full HMRC work history is available or that their legal claim may be statute barred if the delay prevents the identification of the correct defendants to commence Court Proceedings before the expiry of the limitation period.
“Clearly these delays, which are impacting individuals who are desperate to understand where and why they were exposed to working conditions that caused them to develop these conditions, need to be addressed.
“We believe that the cause of the delays is the decisions that have been made in regards to the storage of data on an obsolete technology that has led to the creation of a labour intensive process to access this data and the lack of equipment to read microfilms.
“We have yet to receive any indication that HMRC is taking any adequate steps to address these serious issues, which are having a significant impact on those who have developed terrible illnesses as a result of their employment, who are desperate for answers from their former employers about why steps were not taken to protect them, and their colleagues, from harmful substances.” Roger Maddocks - Partner