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Southport Reporter®

Edition No. 224

Date:- 24 October 2005

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BUSINESSES at risk from growing UK compensation culture. AXA is warning that UK businesses are increasingly under threat from litigation. Research conducted by the company reveals that a quarter of employers surveyed have been involved in a litigation case. Of those companies, during 2004 over half were involved in one case and a further 20%  were involved in between 2 and 4 cases. But how successful were they when it came to protecting their interests and  winning their cases? 16% of the companies involved in a case didn’t win, less than half were successful in winning 1  case, and only 11% won between 2 and 4 cases.

Doug Barnett, risk control strategy manager at AXA Insurance comments:- “Despite the risk of litigation, almost a quarter of SMEs admit that they are not aware of the extent of their liabilities as an employer. Our research shows that too many companies are unnecessarily exposing themselves to the threat of being sued for compensation. The cost of bringing or defending a legal action can put serious financial pressure on a business, whether it eventually wins the case or not.”

Businesses can potentially be sued by an employee, a customer, a supplier or a member of the public. In particular, businesses should ensure that they understand how employment legislation could impact on their company. During the past year £6.2million has been awarded in employment tribunal payouts. This sum, awarded across 368 cases throughout 2004, shows a 45% increase on the previous year, when the total payout was £4.3million. Businesses should also remember that litigation pay-outs set precedents for future settlements.

AXA’s research also asked whether or not SMEs thought that the growing trend toward a culture of litigation/legal action poses a risk to their business. Nearly half of UK SMEs (47%) believe that it does. To reflect this trend  AXA’s small business insurance packages have been enhanced to include legal expenses cover. When asked about why the UK has become a more litigious society, SMEs have varying views. Half put it down to us living in a bigger blame culture these days. 31% cite the increase in ‘no win/no fee’ offers available and 11% say that people have become more aware of their rights. A further 6% blamed the fact that the laws are more aligned to the ‘victim’.

Compensation facts:-

There were fewer awards for sex and race discrimination cases (3.5%), but a huge leap in cases of "disability discrimination" - with awards up 89% in 2004

It was also disability discrimination that attracted the highest awards, with an average payout of £28,889

That was more than double the next highest class - race discrimination, which brought average payouts of £13,720

Tribunals awarded £100,000 or more in 9% of disability cases, against just 1% of sex cases, and no race cases

Awards in the highest band, more than £100,000, rose from 4 in 2003 to 11 in 2004

Almost two thirds of all awards - 63% - were for £5,000 or over


RNID and the TUC are warning that changes in the Licensing Act, allowing 24 hour opening, will lead to an increased likelihood of workers in bars, clubs and pubs being exposed to dangerously loud noise for longer. They fear extended opening hours will mean the 568,000 people already working in this growing industry will be subjected to music so loud they could lose or permanently damage their hearing.

Noise at Work is the theme of this year’s European Week for Safety and Health at Work (24-30 October 2005). Noise is one of the most underestimated workplace risks and RNID, the largest charity representing the 9 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK, and the TUC are urging employers to do more to protect workers’ hearing. Excessive noise in the workplace has caused half a million people in Great Britain to suffer deafness or other ear conditions (1). In some bar and club venues, workers’ hearing is being damaged by music as loud as an aircraft taking off

Brian Lamb, Director of Communications at RNID, says:- “Noise at work issues are usually associated with industries such as manufacturing and construction. However, with more licensed premises opening longer and playing loud, amplified music, staff working in bars, clubs and pubs might not realise their hearing is being put at such high risk.

Prolonged exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss. Since noise induced hearing loss is often cumulative and not immediately obvious, its threat is seldom recognised or taken seriously. However, whilst its effects are irreversible, noise induced hearing loss is totally preventable through the implementation of noise reduction strategies and provision of ear protection for employees.”

Hugh Robertson, Senior Health and Safety Officer at the TUC, says:- “If bar and club owners don’t protect their staff from ear splitting noise they will end up in court. In just over two years the leisure industry will be covered by new legislation, which reduces further, noise levels in music venues. How are they going to meet the legal requirements when they cannot even comply with the current regulations?

The industry must get its act together quickly before it is hit with a huge wave of compensation claims and enforcement action.”

In a joint report titled ‘Noise Overload’, published in December 2004, RNID and the TUC highlighted that local authorities were failing to enforce Noise at Work regulations under which employers have a legal duty to protect their employees’ hearing. Nearly a year on, there has been little or no improvement in the enforcement of Noise at Work regulations in bars, clubs and pubs. RNID and TUC are urging local authorities and HELA (the HSE and local authority enforcement committee), to carry out noise assessments and enforce Noise at Work regulations in bars, clubs and pubs in their areas.

Fatal road traffic collision on Liverpool Avenue, Ainsdale

MERSEYSIDE Police are appealing for witnesses to a serious road traffic collision that occured on Thursday, 20 October at 3.55pm in Liverpool Avenue, Ainsdale.

An elderly female pedestrian was crossing the road at this time when she was struck by a vehicle travelling south towards Liverpool.

She was conveyed to Southport General District Hospital where she subsequently died from her injuries.

Witnesses to this incident are requested to contact Merseyside Police on 0151 777 5730.

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