Syndicate splits capacity increase between public and employers' liability

Lloyd's managing agent Abacus is to offer an extra £16.5m in employers' liability (EL) capacity next year.

The capacity of Abacus Syndicate 2525, which writes EL and public liability (PL) business, will increase to £75m in 2004, up from £42m this year.

An Abacus spokesman confirmed that the extra £33m in capacity would be split evenly between EL and PL business.

Any additional capacity will help ease the pressure on EL, which is the subject of an ongoing review by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

As a part of its initiatives to address the crisis, the DWP held a stakeholder conference looking at claims costs in EL on 16 October.

A DWP official said the conference, which was attended by insurer, employer and solicitor groups, identified areas in the claims process that could be streamlined to cut costs.

He said that early reporting of incidents and standardised reporting of incidents were two of the areas identified for action.

He added that a working party comprising an insurer, an employer, union representatives, a claimant solicitor and an insurer solicitor would meet next month to create practical proposals in these areas, which would then be piloted in the industry.

The official said that the idea of a fixed fee scheme similar to that recently formulated for motor claims was also "positively received".

Meanwhile, Minister for Work Des Browne has dismissed calls by employer groups that the government should act as an insurer of last resort for companies who failed to find cover.

Speaking at a work and pensions select committee last week, Browne said that there was no evidence of a market failure, quoting Health & Safety Executive statistics that indicated only 1% of businesses were trading without EL cover.

"There is no general market failure. There is insurance out there," Browne said.

"The premiums are not over-inflated, they reflect the true cost of accidents in the workplace in the UK."