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Relief for asbestos victims as government reverses plans to delete employment records

The government has decided to cancel plans to destroy employment records at Companies House six years after the closure of a company. The existing situation whereby records are retained for 20 years will now continue – a triumph for those who campaigned against the proposals.

Asbestos illness generally manifests several decades following the original exposure, with the average length of time being 34 years. Victims rely on these records to bring a claim against their employer if the company has closed down in the intervening years.

Making an asbestos compensation claim

To stand a chance of obtaining justice for their suffering, victims of historic asbestos exposure need to provide proof of their employment history, and find out certain details about their time at the company.

This is not generally a problem if the business is still in existence, but because of the time lag generally experienced in these cases, many companies that used asbestos are no longer operating.

Claims for negligence

When armed with detailed information about their client’s employment history, lawyers often put together a compelling case against the employer. As well as documentary evidence that the victim did work for the company, witness statements from fellow-workers, and testimonies from the victim and/or family members who witnessed what had happened, are often enough to obtain the justice that is being sought.

Claims of negligence often face those employers who provided no asbestos training in the workplace, and little in the way of information on how asbestos fibres and dust can cause such devastating illness.

Huge asbestos bill for insurers

This lack of awareness about its dangers has led to compensation claims totalling billions of pounds during the last few decades. So when the government announced its plan to scrap all work histories beyond the previous six years, there was swift and sustained opposition from various quarters.

This included the many asbestos campaign groups set up in the UK to support victims and their families, deputy leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).

South Lakeland shipyard workers at high risk

The shipyard industry was a prolific user of asbestos during the 1960s and 1970s, and former employees of Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness have suffered greatly from the aftermath of asbestos exposure.

Campaigners with the Cumbria Asbestos-Related Disease Support Group (CARDS) have welcomed the news that claims will not be restricted due to lack of employment evidence at Companies House.

Asbestos victim and former councillor, Bob Pointer, runs the campaign group and commented on the government’s decision:

“The records remain available with a cast iron guarantee of any change in policy will not be slipped under the radar. Employees need to know that should the need arise their employment records are readily available in their time of need.”

He also hinted at the ongoing high incidence of asbestos-related disease in the UK, which is predicted to continue at the same rate until the end of this decade.