We try to make the process of claiming asbestos compensation as quick and easy as we possibly can. We work on files as a priority, particularly mesothelioma compensation claims and aim to do as much we can to expedite the process.
Unfortunately, there are some parts of the asbestos claims process that we do not have any control over. A vital document in all asbestos compensation claims is the HMRC work history. This is a document we request from the HMRC which details a person’s work history, giving the names of employers and the tax years they worked for them.
In asbestos claims, we are looking at employment from many years ago, normally going back to the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Due to this, many employer companies are no longer in business and so no employment records are held for clients. Without confirmation of the period of employment insurance companies will not consider asbestos claims fully. This is why the HMRC employment schedule is so important to all asbestos compensation claims.
We have been dealing with asbestos claims for many years and in the past, obtaining the HMRC schedule was never an issue. We would apply for the schedule at the beginning of the claim and it would be received within three or four months. However, in the last two years the schedules have been taking longer and longer to come in. Currently, the wait for the employment schedule on non-mesothelioma asbestos claims is around 14 months. This is causing a lengthy delay on a number of asbestos claims.
Fortunately, for mesothelioma claims we are able to utilise a ‘fast track’ process which provides for the HMRC schedule to arrive in around 14 days. This is due to the nature of the condition as obviously, time is of the essence in these very urgent asbestos claims. However, for other asbestos compensation claims, even potentially life limiting asbestos lung cancer claims, the fast track process is not available.
The HMRC has advised that the delay is due to the way work history records prior to 1997 are kept. These historic documents are on microfiche and can only be read with special machines. Not only is the process of reading the microfiches labour intensive and time consuming, the HMRC only have a limited number of the reader machines and so cannot keep up with the demand for employment schedules.
To our knowledge, the HMRC has not yet identified any ways in which they hope to speed up the process. The employment schedules are currently provided free of charge and we have, on numerous occasions, offered to pay for the schedules to allow us to obtain them quicker. This would surely assist the HMRC in employment more staff to deal with the requests and purchase more machines to cope with the demand.
In June of this year there was a meeting of the Treasury Select Committee and the issue was raised with the Chief Executive of the HMRC. He advised that part of the delay was due to the records being kept on microfiche up until the 1970s. This is not correct as records were in fact kept on microfiche until 1997. Further, he advised that another part of the problem was accessing records from the 1940s and 50s as these are on microfiche. Again, this is incorrect as the HMRC schedules of employment only ever refer to employers dating back to 1960/61.
It is extremely frustrating for our expert asbestos disease solicitors that such lengthy delays are being caused by applying for one important document. It has been said that the HMRC are in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights as they are preventing people from accessing justice within a reasonable period of time.
Asbestos Justice hopes that a solution can be found quickly and in the meantime, would implore HMRC to extend its fast-track process to all asbestos related conditions so that clients pursuing asbestos compensation claims can secure the justice they deserve in a timely fashion.
If you require assistance in pursuing an asbestos compensation claim for mesothelioma or other asbestos disease then please contact us today on our freephone number 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, head over to the ‘Contact Us’ page, complete the form and we will be in touch.