Unite Scotland has given its full support to plans for a new advice and research council to modernise industrial injuries benefits in Scotland, as the nation continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unite Scotland is supporting ‘The Proposed Scottish Employment Injuries Advisory Council Bill’ lodged by Mark Griffin MSP which aims to support the devolved industrial injuries benefits system so that it reflects modern workplaces. The council could also consider new and emerging diseases including COVID-19. The consultation is open until 1 February 2021.

The nation’s leading trade union has repeatedly called for key workers who have faced unprecedented levels of workplace hazards during the pandemic to be given more government support including the need to recognise COVID-19 as a workplace disease. 

Devolved in April 2020, Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit is a no-fault benefit that compensates employees who suffer an industrial accident or contracted certain diseases in selected jobs. Across Scotland 27,100 currently claim the benefit which will be called employment injuries assistance when the Scottish government begin delivering the scheme, expected in autumn 2022. 

The UK Industrial Injuries Advisory Council which manages and proposes industrial diseases is included in the reserved benefit scheme, but Scottish ministers are not permitted to work with the UK body going forward.

Unite Scottish Secretary, Pat Rafferty, said: “Key workers face unprecedented hazards on a daily basis including the real risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace, or while travelling to and from work. The pandemic, which we have endured since March last year, has starkly and tragically highlighted that the industrial injuries benefit system needs overhauled to make it reflect modern and new diseases which can be contracted in the workplace.

“The Proposed Scottish Employment Injuries Advisory Council Bill offers as a unique opportunity to immediately address the current shortcomings of the system and a chance to use devolved new powers to overhaul the industrial injuries benefits. The Bill would also put workers and trade unions at the heart of the decision-making that affects them and the compensation available when the worst happens.”