By: 8 March 2013

Government plans to make it much harder for injured workers to claim compensation from negligent employers have been rejected by the House of Lords.

Peers voted against clause 61 in the  Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill by backing an amendment tabled by shadow work and pensions spokesman Lord McKenzie. Clause 61 would have amended the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and placed the burden of proof for negligence on to injured employees, possibly making litigation more expensive and protracted.

In a close vote (225 in favour to 223 against) peers voted to preserve the current rules.

When introducing the amendment, Lord McKenzie said that the government was seeking “to paint a perception of a compensation culture with anecdotal evidence that the threat of being sued is putting employers off recruiting”.

"Surely the task is to focus on the reality and not to pander to this perception," he said.

Personal injury lawyers will undoubtedly welcome the intervention by peers. In a Parliamentary briefing made in November 2012 on the changes, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) said that it was “absurd in the extreme to consider that putting health and safety burdens back onto the shoulders of vulnerable workers will help Britain compete in the world market place”.

“Responsible competition should mean encouraging the raising of health and safety standards in competing economies, such as India and China, rather than lowering Britain‟s own standards to meet theirs,” said the briefing.