AXA Business Insurance reports a rise of 162 per cent from 2009-2012 with British businesses ultimately having to foot the bill.
In 2012 alone, AXA saw a year on year rise of 75 per cent in the number of deafness claims and had more claims for deafness than any other type of workplace injury or illness. The company attributes the rise as a primary reason for an overall increase of over 30 per cent in Employer Liability claims.
The insurer is concerned that the rise in claims is being fuelled by compensation lawyers and claims management companies targeting potential claimants. And while there are obviously many genuine claims, the company has also seen evidence of a growing number of fraudulent claims. It believes the trend in these claims has many similarities to the massive rise in personal injury claims among drivers over the last few years.
David Williams, managing director, Underwriting, AXA Insurance, said: “The issue for British industry is that, as we have seen with other areas of insurance in the UK, lots of claims inevitably lead to higher premiums in order to cover the cost of payouts. As British business struggles through a prolonged period of recession, the last thing they need is the added expense that this will bring.
“We are very keen to work with British businesses, the rest of the insurance industry and government to put in place effective measures to stop this becoming the next whiplash.”
According to HSE statistics, around one million people in Great Britain are exposed to levels of noise that could affect their hearing. Current Control of Noise regulations require all employers to provide protection in any working environment where decibel levels exceed 85.
David Williams concluded: “We would urge employers to be really thorough in ensuring employees are provided with proper protection and that using it correctly is robustly enforced. By doing this they can help us nip this growing problem in the bud before it starts impacting on their bottom line.”
New employee-owners will exchange some of their UK employment rights for rights of ownership in the form of shares in the business they work for, any gains on which will be exempt from capital gains tax.
Companies of any size will be able to use this new kind of contract, but it is principally intended for fast growing small and medium sized companies that want to create a flexible workforce.
Under the new type of contract, employees will be given between £2,000 and £50,000 of shares that are exempt from capital gains tax. In exchange, they will give up their UK rights on unfair dismissal, redundancy, and the right to request flexible working and time off for training, and will be required provide 16 weeks’ notice of a firm date of return from maternity leave, instead of the usual eight.
Employee-owner status will be optional for existing employees, but both established companies and new start-ups can choose to offer only this new type of contract for new hires. Companies recruiting employee-owners will continue to have the option of inserting more generous employment conditions into the employment contract if they want to.
Legislation to bring in the new employee-owner contract will come later this year so that companies can use the new type of contract from April 2013. The Government will consult on some details of the contract later this month.
Employee-owners receiving full capital gains tax relief on the shares awarded as part of their contract will still be eligible for existing employee share ownership schemes such as the Enterprise Management Incentive.
A package of measures to help cut unnecessary red tape and take steps towards creating the right conditions for businesses to grow, have been announced, as new amendments to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill were published.
The proposals to free up business include:
- removing automatic liability on business for civil damages in health and safety cases, when they are not found negligent;
- exempting intermediary companies from the Estate Agents Act, to encourage new businesses to flourish;
- simplifying entry procedures into bankruptcy by removing the court process when it is not needed, saving individuals, Government and businesses time and money; and
- protecting individuals, by providing guidance and a legal defense, from committing the criminal cartel offence.
Business Minister, Jo Swinson, said:
“Clearing away barriers to help businesses grow and invest is an essential part of the Government’s plan for growth.
“The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will help strengthen the business environment and boost confidence, by sweeping away needless bureaucracy and out-of-date rules.”
Today’s package of amendments also contains reforms to planning consents for listed buildings, making the process more straight forward, and to equalities measures, including removing employer liability for third party harassment.
The amendments are published ahead of the Bill’s report stage and third reading in the House of Commons, taking place on 16 and 17 October.
The Bill concluded its Committee stages just before summer recess. Once it has completed Report stage and third reading it will transfer to the House of Lords.
Subject to Parliamentary approval, the Bill will introduce a significant range of measures that will help support growth, including overhauling the employment tribunal system, improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the competition regime and reducing the burden of regulation on businesses through the Primary Authority scheme.
Businesses have been warned not to put off fire risk assessments or cut back on vital maintenance after it was revealed that up to 70 per cent of those inspected in the last year failed safety audits.
A study by fire expert Safety Management (UK) revealed that out of a survey sample of 3,636 audits carried out between April 2011 and March this year only 1,089 were found to be compliant by Fire and Rescue Service fire safety experts.
A total of 376 enforcement notices were issued to the surveyed businesses over that period.
Brian Gregory, managing director of Safety Management (UK), said: “By not conducting a fire risk assessment, understanding the fire safety measures a business needs and then creating a plan to implement, SMEs are vulnerable to potential prosecution from the enforcing authority, and with fines averaging around £3,000 per offence the fines can mount up very quickly.
“Conducting a fire risk assessment on your property highlights what are the minimum standards of fire safety you need to apply are and the time frames you should apply them. Professional Help is available to SMEs from as little as £150.”
Shops, offices, pubs and clubs will no longer face burdensome health and safety inspections, and over 3,000 regulations will be scrapped or overhauled according to new plans plan by the Government to curb red tape and boost British business growth.
From April 2013, the Government intends to introduce binding new rules on both the Health & Safety Executive and on local authorities, that will exempt hundreds of thousands of businesses from burdensome, regular health & safety inspections.
In future, businesses will only face health and safety inspections if they are operating in higher risk areas such as construction, or if they have an incident or a track record of poor performance. In addition, the Government will introduce legislation next month to ensure that businesses will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they can be shown to have acted negligently. This will end the current situation where businesses can automatically be liable for damages even if they were not actually negligent.
The Government is also taking radical action on red tape in a further measure to boost growth and jobs in the economy. The Government is systematically examining some 6,500 substantive regulations that it inherited through the Red Tape Challenge process. The Government is now committing to abolish or substantially reduce at least 3,000 of these regulations and it will complete the identification of the regulations to be scrapped or overhauled by December 2013.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: ”In these tough times, businesses need to focus all their energies on creating jobs and growth, not being tied up in unnecessary red tape. I’ve listened to those concerns and we’re determined to put common sense back into areas like health and safety, which will reduce costs and fear of burdensome inspections.”