Lawyers: TUC injuries plan could save billions

The TUC believes it can offer a new service to represent people injured at work. Michael Streeter looks at a scheme which could save the Government a fortune in legal aid costs.
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The Independent Online
A radical scheme which could save government and industry pounds 5bn a year in legal fees was proposed by John Monks, the TUC general secretary, in a speech earlier this week.

Part of the proposal, which has so far provoked no response from ministers, centres on extending the TUC's existing legal services to all people, even non-union members, who suffer injuries at work.

At the moment, trade unions help some 150,000 members win compensation from employers and insurers. Last year, the total damages amounted to pounds 330m.

Under the Monks plan, non-union members would, for the first time, be able to take advantage of the same scheme saving the Government money spent on legal-aid funding.

"A TUC workplace legal-aid scheme would ensure that victims got justice without requiring the taxpayer to pay. It would be a perfect example of government helping unions to help working people," said Mr Monks.

Few people in work are eligible for legal aid. The other route is for plaintiffs to seek no-win, no-fee conditional agreements with lawyers, where they may have to pay an insurance premium up front to cover their costs.

Under the TUC scheme there is a plan for a fundfor the employee to have this premium paid and then bring their case under the same conditional fee arrangement.

Next week, details of the scheme will be given to ministers and civil servants in a variety of departments. "So far we've heard nothing," said one TUC source, "but I would be amazed if the reaction is not positive".