Individuals who require details of their employment history for the purposes of making a compensation claim are facing unnecessary delay in their claims being dealt with due to problems that the HMRC are having in providing this information.
Such historical information is available from the HM Revenue & Customs however John Thompson, Chief of the HMRC, has conceded that significant delay is being caused due to most of the pre-1970s employment records being held on microfiche and there being a dwindling number of operational machines left to access them.
Following a complaint from Labour MP John Mann that people were having to wait more than a year to access this information, Mr Thompson told the Commons Treasury Committee:-
“The records are essentially people’s national insurance records, which identify their employer and allow them to open up potential insurance claims against their employer for previous histories. The challenge we have is that these records go back several decades to when records were kept in a very different way. The majority of these records from before the mid-1970s are on microfiche.”
The HMRC has only 36 operational microfiche machines and as these break down frequently, tax officials have been forced to hunt online for rare replacement parts or engineers with the skills to fit them.
As a result, there is currently a delay of up to a year in getting these employment histories. It was noted that this delay is creating a significant problem for groups such as those affected by exposure to asbestos – or their widows.
“The obtaining of these employment schedules is essential for both victims lawyers and the employers insurers in order to help prove the victim’s employment. We are currently seeing delays of up to one year from the date of the request before the schedules are being provided. That is just too long to have to wait for the most basic information, namely the provision of a person’s employment history. It effectively puts a victim’s case on hold unnecessarily for one year as the insurers of those companies who previously exposed them to asbestos will not deal with the claims until the correspondence is provided. This is far from satisfactory and the HMRC must now deal with this situation with the utmost urgency.”
Such delay will undoubtedly create difficulties for people in accessing justice and this will be deemed by many to be unacceptable.