The number of settlements for workplace injury and disease have halved since the Conservative government came to power, despite a sharp increase in work-related ill health, according to new data.
Following Freedom of Information Act requests in 2012 and 2022, figures obtained by the health and safety magazine Hazards found that there were 87,655 claims registered with the Compensation Recovery Unit (CRU) in 2011/12. However, this had fallen to 44,435 in 2021/22 – a 50% drop.
Accident claims fell from 68,348 to 35,254, down by more than 48%. The number of claims for what are considered the ‘classic’ occupational diseases – including pneumoconiosis, asthma, strain injuries, deafness, dermatitis and vibration white finger – also went down significantly.
The number of compensation claims for occupational cancer had fallen to very low figures and appeared to be continuing to decline, the figures suggested.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has estimated there are 13,000 occupational cancer cases a year. In 2011/12, just 245 cases of occupational cancers other than mesothelioma were compensated. But by 2021/22 this had fallen to 139, a drop of more than 43%.
Claims for mesothelioma also fell sharply, despite the total number of cases and deaths now being significantly higher than a decade ago. There were 2,471 claims in 2011/12, compared to 2,204 in 2021/22, an 11% fall.
Equally, stress, depression and anxiety claims have dropped by 45% in the decade, again running counter to rising cases.
Workplace health and safety
A similar pattern was observed in the data for work-related lung disease. According to the HSE, the number of cases here has remained broadly constant or has risen slightly over the past decade.
However, claims for the most serious lung conditions had dropped markedly, according to the data. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and occupational asthma were both down by a third (33%), bronchitis/emphysema by 88% and pneumoconiosis claims by 29%.
Claims for repetitive strain injuries and upper limb disorders were down by 49% cent and almost 70% respectively.
The figures were published in conjunction with Thompsons Solicitors. Dan Poet, principal lawyer at the firm, said: “Reduced claim numbers may look like a healthy trend but we know this is not matched by a reduction in workplace accidents and illnesses.
“The only conclusion is that many victims of workplace injury and illness are going uncompensated as a direct result of changing government policies,” he added.
Rory O’Neill, International Trade Union Confederation professor and editor of Hazards magazine, said: “The analysis of government figures reveals a shocking accountability deficit. In the last decade, both compensation settlements and health and safety enforcement have plummeted – there are now fewer than 200 workplace safety convictions each year, a quarter the level when the Conservatives took office.
“This means at least 40,000 additional employers each year are now leaving their employees hurt, diseased and sometimes dying with virtual impunity.”