Seanad Éireann - Volume 45 - 19 July, 1955
Workmen's Compensation (Amendment) Bill, 1954—Second Stage.
Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. Corish) Brendan Corish
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. Corish): The main object of this Bill is to raise the arbitrary maximum limit on the weekly payment of workmen's compensation to £4 10s. and to increase by one-half the lump sum payable in fatal cases.
Under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, a workman who is injured at his job is entitled to compensation from his employer. If he dies, the compensation takes the form of a lump sum payable to his dependents. If he does not, he gets three quarters of his wages while he is unable to work, subject, however, to a fixed maximum which applies in all cases, irrespective of the wages he was earning or the circumstances of the case.
The Workmen's Compensation Act, 1934, fixed this maximum at the modest sum of 30/-, so that when a breadwinner had the misfortune to be disabled by an accident, his compensation was no greater than if he had been earning only £2 a week. The maximum was increased to 37/6 by an Emergency Powers Order in 1944 and to 50/- by the Act of 1948.
The Act of 1953 introduced a new principle. It gave married men supplemental allowances of 12/- a week for a wife and 7/- each in respect of two children under 15. These allowances raised the maximum weekly payment for married men to 76/-. Single men and women got no increase, although many of them have to support aged  parents or younger brothers or sisters. There was also the danger that the introduction of differentials would place married men at a disadvantage, as employers might give preference to single men because of the smaller liability. The most serious objection, however, is that such allowances run counter to the principle of relating compensation to loss of earnings. The present Bill restores that principle by abolishing the allowances and applying the maximum of 90/- to all weekly payments.
The new maximum means that workmen will, in future, be compensated for the loss of wages up to £6 a week. Owing to the present level of wages, many injured workmen will still receive less than three-quarters of their actual wages, but the number will be smaller than at present.
The Bill provides for an increase of four-fifths in the small number of personal weekly payments still being made under the 1906 Act and earlier Acts.
The lump sums now payable in fatal cases will be increased by one-half. The present maximum of £1,200 will be increased to £1,800, which is about the present value of the £600 maximum fixed by the Act of 1934.
Section 8 of the Bill provides that, where a workman has been in receipt of a weekly payment of compensation in respect of total incapacity for not less than two years, he may apply to the court for the redemption of the weekly payment. If he satisfies the court that he is totally incapacitated and is likely to remain so for the rest of his life, the court may order redemption if it is satisfied that it would be for the benefit of the workman and would not cause undue hardship to the employer. The court will fix the amount of the lump sum to be paid in redemption. In doing so, it will have regard to the workman's age and expectation of life, but the lump sum cannot exceed the amount payable by an employer who obtains a redemption order in a case of permanent incapacity under the Act of 1934 as amended.
Section 9 of the Bill provides for  the substitution of the date of death of the workman for the date of allocation of the children's lump sum. At present the children's lump sum is divided among the children in the ratio of the number of months between the date of its allocation by the court and the date on which each child will attain the age limit for juvenile dependency. A child attaining that limit between the date of the workman's death and the date of allocation cannot share in the children's lump sum, and, as he was not an adult dependent at the date of the workman's death, he cannot share in the adult's lump sum. Consequently, he gets no compensation at all. Under Section 9, he will share in the children's lump sum.
Another matter covered by the Bill is the raising of the age limit for juvenile dependents from 15 years to 16 years, which is the age limit for qualified children under the Social Welfare Act, 1952.
This Bill is an interim measure. Its main purpose is to relieve the hardship which the present limit on the weekly payment imposes on the casualties of industry—a limit which has been rendered galling and intolerable by the increase in the cost of living and the consequent increase in rates of wages down the years.
These are just a few of the problems. I have decided to set up a commission to survey the whole field of workmen's compensation and recommend whether the existing code should be suitably amended or scrapped altogether in favour of a scheme of national insurance for industrial injuries. Meantime, I recommend this Bill to the Seanad as an attempt to do the best we can, in our present circumstances, for the unfortunates who are injured or killed while earning their livelihood.
Mr. Hawkins Mr. Hawkins
Mr. Hawkins: Some 12 months or more ago this House, in conjunction with the other House, set up a committee to inquire into this very important matter of workmen's compensation. Because of the general election and the change of Government, this committee never met, I think, and therefore we have been deprived of  whatever recommendations it might make. We expected that when the present Government set about bringing in a Bill to improve the present arrangements in regard to workmen's compensation, it would be much more comprehensive than this Bill. We expected that it would remove many of the difficulties under which injured workers have to exist, in many cases over a long period. I have asked myself the question—and I am sure others have, too—as to whether the time has not arrived to try to bring this legislation into line with social welfare legislation, rather than continue the present unsatisfactory position.
Many employers throughout the country insure their workers for workmen's compensation with insurance companies, while others carry that insurance themselves. Another section have the belief that because they contribute to the unemployment insurance and national health insurance all is well with the worker and they find, when the worker meets with an accident and has to take steps to recover his means of subsistence, there is great difficulty for both worker and employer. We should try to remove these injustices on both sides. I hope that this commission of inquiry that the Minister is setting up will be set up immediately and that it will take into consideration these aspects of this very important question.
There is another aspect that is very familiar to us, particularly those of us who are intimate with the workers. It refers more to where the employer has his worker insured than to where the liability is met by the employer himself. The legal weekly payments are made and then, under pressure of economic circumstances, the worker is compelled to accept as a settlement of his claim much less than he should get. Sometimes the weekly payments are stopped over a period and the worker has nothing but public assistance to rely on to tide him over the period which intervenes between the time when the payments are stopped and the time when a settlement is arrived at. That type of pressure is put on and is always available to either the insurance company or the  employer when the worker is in that particular position.
These are matters in relation to which the commission which the Minister proposes to set up should give very careful consideration. I feel that the whole matter could be incorporated in our social welfare legislation. If that were done we would not have the position we have to-day. I should like to direct the attention of the House to the 1953 Act which provided that a married man unable to continue his work as a result of an accident would receive a sum of 50/- per week, plus 12/6 for his wife and 7/6 for one or two children. I think that was a very good principle to put into a Bill, but I regret very much that the Minister has availed of the opportunity of introducing this Bill to remove that very essential supplementary allowance that was given, after all, to the person who required it most.
The Minister drew the attention of the House to the fact that the allowances made bore no relation to the wages earned by the worker and more or less put forward, as an excuse for the removal of the subsidy, the injustice that it inflicted on the single man who might have dependents. I do not think that a sufficient reason. I would ask the House not to accept it as a good and sufficient reason why we should depart from the principle introduced in the 1953 measure. If there are such people and if, in the Minister's view, an injustice is being done to them, it is quite easy to rectify that injustice by introducing proposals in this Bill whereby a single man with dependents would also be entitled to get some remuneration.
The Bill proposes to raise the weekly payments to £4 10s., as the Minister said. That is a rather sweetened statement. It is not, of course, a fact. It does provide that the maximum payment will be not more than £4 10s. per week. But then you have provision made where four-fifths of the weekly wage of the wage earner will be the amount. He will not be entitled to receive anything more than £4 10s. It is an increase, of course.
The Minister might claim to be generous, but we are not generous at  the expense of the State. I should like to remind the House that the Exchequer or the Central Fund does not provide one penny for the implementation of the measure we are now asked to pass. If, in the Minister's view, it is necessary that a person who has met with an accident and is not in a position to earn his livelihood as a result of that should receive the sum of £4 10s. per week, then I think he should give serious consideration to bringing up our other social service payments, unemployment assistance and national health insurance. After all, if the head of a family becomes ill and has to undertake hospital treatment for a number of weeks, his position is as bad, if not worse, than that of the man who has met with an accident in the course of his employment.
If we are to do justice in all these cases, then we should ensure that they will receive equal weekly allowances. The increase in compensation follows on the increase in the weekly allowance. The Minister referred to Section 8, which deals with the redemption of weekly payments on the application of a workman. There are just one or two remarks I would like to make in that connection. I would like to have more information from the Minister on this matter before we go on to consider the Committee Stage. Sub-section (2) of Section 8 says:
“In determining under sub-section (1) of this section the amount of a lump sum, the court, as well as having regard to all other matters which it considers relevant, shall have regard, in particular, to the age of the workman and to his expectation of life.”
Sub-section (3) of the same section is as follows:
“For the purposes of sub-section (1) of this section a life annuity shall be deemed to be purchasable at a price calculated in accordance with the Table set forth in the Second Schedule to this Act and not otherwise.”
Sub-section (4) of Section 8 says:
“The court shall have a discretion to grant or refuse an application  under this section and, in exercising that discretion, the court, as well as having regard to all other matters which it considers relevant, shall have regard, in particular, to whether the making of the order will be for the benefit of the workman and whether the making of the order would cause undue hardship to the employer.”
It is only right, of course, that one of the matters the court should consider in this connection would be whether it was in the interests of the worker that he should get this lump sum or not, but you have here provision being made for two considerations which more often than not run contrary to one another—whether it is in the interests of the workman to receive a lump sum or it is going to be an undue hardship on the employer. If the court considers that it is in the interest of the worker that the worker should receive this lump sum but, having considered the employer's position, that it would be an undue hardship on the employer to grant that lump sum, what then is the position?
I think these are the considerations that will enter into each and every case that comes before the court having regard to the way this section is worded. Of course, the employer may have the worker insured and a different view might be taken with regard to the matter of undue hardship. Section 10 states:—
“A person shall not be entitled to a supplemental allowance under Section 3 of the Act of 1953 in respect of any week commencing on or after the appointed day.”
Therefore, we are taking now from the married man who is in receipt of workmen's compensation, a privilege he has got. He was entitled to receive 12/6 a week in respect of his wife and 7/6 for one or two children, as the case might be. I think the Minister should seriously reconsider his approach to this matter and reintroduce this section in the Bill.
There is very little else in the Bill, I think, that we cannot deal with more effectively on the Committee Stage. I would like to know the Minister's attitude  in regard to the considerations I have put before him.
Mr. Douglas Mr. Douglas
Mr. Douglas: I was very glad to hear the Minister announce that he intended to set up a commission of inquiry to go into the whole question of social insurance. I hope he will set up the commission without delay and that an opportunity will be given to both sides to put their points of view before the commission. As an employer, I have often been concerned not only with the problem of the sick worker, but more so with that of the injured worker, because I feel that at the present time when compensation is provided for injured workmen, and more so when sickness insurance is provided, it is at a lower scale than the normal weekly wage and that is at a time when a person instead of requiring less to live on probably requires a great deal more. It is a problem which will have to be considered by the commission and I do not quite honestly know how it can be got over.
The Minister stated that the present Bill is purely an interim one until such time as the commission makes a report. I think it is a Bill which must be welcomed not only by the workmen but also by the employers, because we all felt that something must be done to increase payments made available to a person incapacitated through an accident.
I understand that when the Bill was introduced into the Dáil the Minister received at least one deputation from interested parties, and I think it was due at least in part to the representations made by that delegation that the Minister decided to delete Sections 8 and 11 of the Bill as originally introduced in Dáil Éireann. I think the feeling got around—certainly among the general public—that it was not the intention of the Minister in the present Bill to reintroduce either a modified Section 8 or a modified Section 11. Certainly it came as a surprise to me—I think it was on the 13th July—when I received a modified amendment to Section 8.
I wonder whether the Minister has had an opportunity of discussing this modified Section 8 with the insurance and other interests who put their point  of view before him when the Bill was first introduced. As far as I know, outside bodies have not had an opportunity of seeing this Section 8 which is embodied in the Bill before us to-day and I feel that it might be desirable that these people should have at least been given an opportunity of considering the section and making their comments, if any, to the Minister before the Bill actually passed through this House. I know it has not been possible in the short time between last Thursday and to-day for some of these outside bodies to get together or to get a copy of this section and study it. The Minister, of course, is not bound in any way to accept any recommendations that might be made to him, but I do feel in legislation of this kind that all points should be considered before it becomes law.
I am not too happy about the wording of the new Section 8 and especially of paragraph 1. In the Dáil in Volume 152, No. 7, at column 1128 the Minister stated:—
“The debate on this amendment”—
and the amendment he was referring to was the amendment to delete Section 8—
“made it clear that, while there were objections to giving men who were partially incapacitated the right to have their weekly payment commuted for a lump sum, there was a general feeling that some provision of this nature should be made for injured workmen whose incapacity was permanent.”
He then said: “The amendment which I now move is an attempt to meet that expression of opinion of the House”. I do not feel that this paragraph 1 of Section 8 meets that objection in that it does not appear to me to give a clear meaning to the words as to the definition that is placed on the words “total incapacity”. For example, if a bus or van driver should meet with an accident which resulted in the total loss of his sight he would be, I think, totally incapacitated so far as driving a mechanically propelled vehicle is concerned. After two years—if I interpret the Bill correctly—he could apply to  the courts for a lump sum payment and I do not think it would be very hard to prove that he was totally and permanently incapacitated so far as his normal source of income was concerned. Having obtained an award from the court there is nothing in the Bill, so far as I can see, to prevent him seeking fresh employment in an occupation suitable for a blind person.
I am quite satisfied that a case of this kind would occur very rarely but I do not think it is the intention of the Minister to provide a loophole of this kind. For that reason I propose on the Committee Stage to put down an amendment to paragraph 1 of Section 8 which I hope will clarify the situation. This I think can be done by deleting from line seven the word “and” and by inserting in line eight after the word “life” a new sentence which would read “and that he will be unable to undertake any alternative occupation”. I hope that the Minister will when I have an opportunity of putting this amendment down give it favourable consideration because I feel it would help to prevent unscrupulous persons from exploiting the Act and it will not in any way restrict the rights of those for whom this Bill is being intended.
There is one other question I would like to ask the Minister at this stage and I hope he will answer it during the course of the debate. It is whether he has ascertained what the increased cost to business and industry will be when this Bill becomes law? One of the difficulties from the business community point of view is that while we had a great deal of discussion in the Press and elsewhere lately about increased profits, it is untrue to say that business to-day is benefiting from increased net profits and it is out of net profits that all these increased overheads have to be met and as long as net profits in business and industry are scaled down to the present level I cannot see how industry is going to prosper in this country and at the same time meet these commitments no matter how desirable they are.
Mr. Cogan Mr. Cogan
Mr. Cogan: As this is, and must be considered, I suppose, as social legislation, it is difficult for a Parliament  to oppose it. That is something which the Minister will accept. Once the Government of a nation decides on doing something which is undoubtedly a benefit to the lower-income sections of the community it is a proposal which Parliament must accept and cannot reject except for very grave considerations.
This Bill does undoubtedly confer a benefit upon injured workers. It has, however, a number of very obvious flaws. To begin with, the entire benefit which is being provided is being provided not at the expense of the State but at the expense in the main of the employers. It is very easy to be generous, even moderately generous, at other people's expense, and while it might be said that all social legislation passed by Parliament is at other people's expense inasmuch as it is derived from the public in general, in the case of social legislation that is financed out of the Exchequer it does impose on the Government the liability and obligation of raising the money by some means.
A Bill such as this, however beneficial to a section of the community, imposes no liability on the Exchequer and that is something which deserves consideration, because one of the peculiar anomalies created in this Bill is that the benefits provided for insured workers incapacitated through an accident occurring in the course of their employment will be much greater than the benefits which are provided for workers who become totally incapacitated through illness and who are depending upon the generosity of the State through insurance legislation and so forth. It seems rather a strange thing that a man who is unable to earn his livelihood as a result of an injury received in the course of his employment is as badly off, but no worse off, than a man unable to work because of an injury sustained in his own private time or because of an illness which he contracted either in the course of his employment or outside the period of his employment.
I think it is a bad principle to create new anomalies; the purpose of the State in regard to social legislation  should be directed towards ironing out anomalies which already exist. As a result of this Bill, when it becomes law, the State will be faced with a number of new and more difficult problems. The first problem with which the State will be faced is that of bringing health insurance benefits up to the same level as are provided under this Bill and I think that however desirable that may be—and I am sure it will be agreed it is desirable to give as much as possible to those unable to earn their livelihood through illness—the problem of financing national health under such circumstances will be enormous. I hope the Minister and the Government have given full and favourable consideration to every aspect of this question.
It was because of all those difficulties that steps were taken last year to have an inquiry into this matter and I am glad the Minister is still of the opinion that such an investigation should be held. I do, however, wish to point out that the very nature of this legislation will make the problem somewhat more complicated. I can see great difficulty for example in raising the contributions under health insurance to such a level as will provide exactly the same benefits as will be provided under this Bill. However, I suppose that is the Minister's worry for the moment.
I think also that Section 8, which deals with the redemption of benefits, does seem to encourage the courts to have those weekly allowances redeemed and to have the matter disposed of by way of lump sum. Anybody who has given any consideration to this matter must agree that the settlement of those claims by lump sum is fundamentally a bad principle except in very exceptional cases. A worker who has for years been solely dependent for his livelihood and the support of his family on his weekly wage or weekly earnings has not always the necessary knowledge or training or experience to use a very large sum of money by investment to the best advantage. Physically, he would be handicapped perhaps but he would also be handicapped through lack of mental training and there is always the grave danger that if a worker accepts the lump sum  he may invest it in various forms of enterprise which are unwise.
As a result, he may be left in less than a year with no income at all and he will find himself, at the same time, debarred from many sources of employment. Recently I had to make representations—I do not know whether I had or not but I did—on behalf of an ex-county council worker who had received a substantial sum by way of compensation. He has now got no means. He claimed he had recovered completely and he was seeking to be re-employed by the county council. The county council refused to re-employ him on the grounds that he had been compensated for complete incapacity and I do not think there was any answer to that. What was wrong was the decision to settle that case by way of lump sum. It would have been far better for that man if he were in receipt of a weekly payment and remained in receipt of such a weekly allowance.
Of course, we all know that settlements by way of lump sum, as occur in those cases, also give rise to a certain amount of exploitation of various kinds. There is the tendency on the part of the legal profession to advise a worker to hold out for as much compensation as he can secure and to represent that his injury is perhaps worse than it is. If the patient is recovering he will probably be advised to withhold that information. We all know that in cases of this kind it is very difficult for the medical profession to distinguish between the person who is genuinely injured to the extent which he claims and the person who is represented as malingering.
There is very little real encouragement to the average man to malinger where it is a matter of a week to week payment but there is a very strong temptation to do so when, by keeping up appearances of being severely injured, a person may secure a very substantial lump sum. I think that is one of the strongest arguments against settlements of this kind and I do not believe there is sufficient safeguard in Section 8 of this Bill for the worker in the first place, or that there is sufficient  safeguard against abuses in the second place.
I think there should be a definite direction given to the courts that only in very exceptional circumstances should those benefits be redeemed by lump sum payments; only in cases where workers are able to prove that they could use the money beneficially to their families and themselves, without any risk of subsequent loss, should a court agree to such settlements. Advice should be definitely against these settlements. In any case, I am in agreement with Senator Douglas that all the interests concerned should be consulted in regard to this matter before the Bill is finally enacted, because as he pointed out, this section, very far-reaching in its nature, did not receive the amount of consideration which the deleted sections had received.
In replying to this debate, the Minister should give—I do not think he has already done so—as clear an estimate as possible of the cost of this Bill to industry generally, to agriculture and to all those concerned. He should also, I think, be in a position now to give an estimate of the percentage increase that insurance companies will require in premiums to meet the added cost of this Bill. It would have been better for the Minister to have gone ahead from the moment he took office and prepared legislation incorporating workmen's compensation in the general code of health insurance. It would be a better safeguard for the worker and for the employer if all liabilities of this nature arising out of the compensation of workers in regard to loss of employment were included in one contribution under the one heading. I am not thereby suggesting that part of the liability formerly borne entirely by the employer should be passed on to the worker, but I am claiming that whatever liability is imposed on the employer should be combined with his contribution under national health and employment legislation. The State would then be taking responsibility, through the Department of Social Welfare, for the welfare of the people who are affected by this measure.
 Since this Bill does add to the liabilities and to the burdens on industry and agriculture, it is necessary to estimate accurately what these additional burdens may be. To the small or medium-sized farmer employing one or two men, an increase of 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. in the annual premium would be a substantial consideration. I remember in Dáil Éireann making the case that the farmer who gives employment is a person who deserves to be commended, if you like, rather than penalised. The Minister's predecessor, Deputy Norton, took me up on this matter and said that the farmer who gives employment does not deserve any commendation whatever, that he is merely employing men in order to make a profit for himself. But there is this consideration. If there are two landowners or two farmers side by side, with exactly the same acreage, the same valuation, and one is employing two men and paying fair wages and the other is employing no one at all, is not the man who is giving employment a better citizen and conferring a general benefit on the community? Does he not deserve some commendation as against the man who gives no employment whatever? Under the Bill however, and under most social legislation, the man who gives employment is subjected to additional penalties whereas the man who employs no one is completely exempt.
Whatever additional liability is imposed upon employers by this Bill will be imposed upon the section of the community who are trying to develop to the best advantage whatever property is under their control and trying to provide as much employment as they can. On the other hand, the man who neglects his property or uses it in such a way as will give the minimum amount of employment, escapes all liability. That is another consideration that the Minister should put before this committee of investigation when he is dealing with this whole problem of workmen's compensation. I am not opposed to this Bill but I feel it has very obvious faults that could have been avoided if the Minister had taken the very necessary and much more desirable step of going ahead  with the inclusion of workmen's compensation under our general social welfare schemes.
Mr. McGuire Mr. McGuire
Mr. McGuire: This is not a controversial Bill in that we all agree on the principle underlying the Bill, namely, of compensating workmen for injuries suffered in the course of their employment. Any controversy there might be arises from the question of the degree of compensation to be paid in each particular case, how the compensation is to be paid and who pays it. It is quite right that there was not a more comprehensive Bill brought in at this stage and I do not think it would be possible to do so for the very reason that has already become apparent in this debate, namely, that so many questions arise and so many questions need to be answered by the different people who are concerned with this Bill on both sides, on the workman's side and on the employer's side.
It is for that reason I feel happy to hear that the Minister is setting up a commission to go into the matter. It is only through a commission that the whole question can be fully sifted and that employers and employees will be given an opportunity of putting their case. We all know that in the past workmen were not given adequate compensation in cases of injury, compensation which at least would enable them to live even in a frugal manner. On the other hand we must consider in cases like this not so much what we should pay as what we could pay. I am sorry to say that only too often nowadays in legislation of all kinds which imposes extra charges on industry and on the community generally, we only work out what we would like to pay, but we do not consider whether the money is forthcoming to carry out the schemes which we propose and which we actually enshrine in legislation.
I think the weight in various forms is at present altogether too heavy on industry without making liability still heavier under a measure of this kind. At the same time I, as an employer, agree that workmen must be properly compensated and that they are not at present being properly compensated for injuries incurred in the course of  their employment. From that point of view, it seems to me that the proposal that workmen's compensation should be enshrined as part of our social welfare legislation is a good one because, as part of such social legislation, it will then be the responsibility of the whole community and, after all, the community as a whole is concerned in a matter of this kind.
If too much weight is put on industry the community indirectly suffers because it is through industry that adequate employment is provided in the first place; and workmen will not suffer injury in industry unless industry is there to employ them. I think the suggestion that this should be made part of our social welfare legislation as a whole is a good one.
I was rather surprised when I saw the reappearance of Section 8 in this Bill. I think Senator Douglas has put his finger on the objectionable part of that section. The objection is not, of course, that the workman can commute his payments after two years' total incapacity but rather that a number of people, who were not in fact totally incapacitated, would be able to avail of that particular clause and then commence working in some other capacity later on; in other words, workmen could avail of this clause to obtain a payment to which they would not really be entitled and to which the Bill does not envisage they should have a right. However, I think that through the proposal which Senator Douglas intends to put forward on the Committee Stage a solution may be found for this difficulty. It will then be possible to give a totally incapacitated workman a commuted sum and, on the other hand, it will prevent people evading the law and getting away with compensation to which they are not legally entitled.
I hope the proposed commission will be set up quickly. I hope that when it is set up it will be availed of by all interested parties in order to put forward their case. Very often in the past when commissions have been set up people who were very vocal in objecting to certain things did not go forward  and make their case when they had the opportunity to do so. I hope that on this occasion both the business people and the representatives of the workers will make a full and fair case, realising that, in making that case, they are interdependent and one side must not try to get away with something as against the other side because, if that attitude is adopted, both sides will injure themselves in the long run.
Mr. Walsh Mr. Walsh
Mr. Walsh: The Minister has not given us a firm figure as to what the approximate increase in premiums will be as a result of the increased compensation payable to workmen under this Bill. If this were legislation under which the Exchequer would take responsibility one of the first matters discussed by this House would be the approximate cost to the Exchequer. This Bill will place a considerable impost on industry and on agriculture. Yet, the Minister has not given us even the approximate figure, a figure which would be very desirable in this discussion. He did in the other House suggest that the increase might be approximately 80 per cent. but he did not appear to be satisfied with the amount suggested by the insurance companies to be apportioned in relation to the increase in consequence of the lump sum payment where the weekly payments will be redeemed.
There is a good deal of inequality and disparity in this Bill as between the benefits payable in respect of unemployment, sickness and disability. In the case of unemployment the worker is entitled to 12/- per week; in the case of sickness or disability he is only entitled to 24/- per week. It is only right that the workers, the employer and the State should contribute towards that benefit, but in this case the onus will be entirely on the employer. If a worker meets with an accident during the course of his employment or develops pneumonia he will apparently be entitled to workmen's compensation. The Bill increases the compensation for a married man with six children by 14/- per week; it increases the compensation payable to a single man by £2 per week. I do not think that is good social policy. It has  been suggested that £4 10s. per week is little enough for a workman to live on; prior to an accident that workman might have been earning up to £9 or £10 per week. Admittedly, there must be a limit at some point. In a neighbouring country, in which a considerable number of our people are employed, the disability benefit payable to a workman is 55/- per week; he is entitled to 21/- per week for an adult dependent, to 10/6 per week for the eldest child and 2/6 per week for every child after the eldest child. There, social services are developed to a much greater extent than they are here, but for a single workman the maximum is only 55/- per week.
The Minister has suggested that if there is discrimination as between a single workman and a married workman with dependents, employers will not be so anxious to employ married men. That has certainly not been my experience because I believe that a married man with dependents is a much more responsible citizen. He is more conservative. He is less inclined to strike. He will certainly be less inclined to emigrate and he quite definitely will not be anxious to throw up his employment. Consequently, in my opinion, the employer would prefer a married man to a single man. I do not think insurance companies in consequence of the increased payments under the 1953 Act, have ever increased the premium because of the fact that an employee was a married man with dependents.
Again, insurance companies, apparently, assess the premium on the wage payable and not on the maximum payable under the Acts. I presume that will continue and, as wages go up, that insurance companies will increase their premiums on the basis of the wage payable, not taking into consideration the maximum which is payable under this Bill.
At the moment it is extremely difficult for employers who employ only casual workers to have them covered. There is a good deal of trouble involved in going to insurance companies and estimating the length of time the employee will be engaged or  the amount of wage which will be paid. Consequently, in many cases, employers do not bother going to the trouble of insuring their workers.
I was rather surprised to learn from the Minister's statement that out of the 750,000 insurable workers in this country only 500,000 are insured. That means that in many cases serious injustices must be done from time to time to workers because of the fact that they know their employers are men of straw and that, naturally, they must accept a very low rate of compensation because the employer would not be capable of paying anything like the lump sum which is prescribed in this Bill.
Under the Acts, the doctor's fee is only £5. That is awarded only when the case goes to court and when application is made at the end of the hearing. The judge is prevented from awarding any higher sum. As a result of the health legislation which is now in force in this country, insured workers are entitled to hospital treatment free of cost but a great number of these workers would not need hospital treatment but would be attended by their own local dispensary doctor. If the workman concerned is not of the public assistance class, he will be liable for the ordinary medical fees and, for every certificate furnished, will have to pay the doctor the cost of furnishing that certificate.
I certainly think that, following this Bill, the sooner compulsory insurance is introduced, the better for the workman and the employer generally. I also think that the sooner the State introduces a comprehensive social scheme which will include workmen's compensation, the greater the saving will be to the community generally.
The Minister suggested that the cost of administering the social welfare scheme was 12 per cent. whereas the cost of administering by insurance companies goes up to 30 to 50 per cent. For that reason alone, the community would save a considerable amount eventually. There is no doubt that the legal and medical professions might suffer to some extent but I think they would be only too glad to do so if they  felt that they were conferring a benefit on the people who should benefit.
The Minister suggested that, leaving aside the profit of 15 per cent. which English-based insurance companies in this country have been obtaining under workmen's compensation in recent years, it has been costing them 50 per cent. to administer the workmen's compensation code.
When the Minister mentioned the 500,000 insurable workers who are insured for workmen's compensation, I take it that he did not include workmen who are employed by local authorities who carry their own insurance. If they were included, the figure would be a good deal higher than 500,000. In the county from which I come the local authority carries its own insurance.
I may mention at this stage that the amount deducted each week from the workman's wages for insurance is 6d. in the £1. Even with that, a reasonable surplus has been accumulated, which is used nearly every year to contribute towards a reduction in the cost of the wages. The council found it a very good paying proposition to do their own insurance rather than to allow an insurance company to do it it for them. That is another reason why, I think, a comprehensive social scheme which would cover all eventualities would be very desirable and it is a development with which I would like to be associated.
Miss Davidson Miss Davidson
Miss Davidson: I would like to congratulate the Minister on having presented this Bill to the House and also on his decision to set up a commission to go into the whole question of the workmen's compensation code and, perhaps, to embody workmen's compensation within the scope of social welfare legislation, where I think it ought to be.
The increased weekly payment is welcome throughout the whole of the workers' movement. It is a provision that will go a very long way towards preventing injured workmen from going back to their jobs while they are still unfit, which often has fatal results.
 The power to initiate proceedings for a lump sum settlement is a valuable provision in this new Workmen's Compensation Bill. The increased lump sum is also very welcome, as is the increase in the juvenile dependent's age from 15 to 16.
Reference was made in the debate in the Dáil to the fact that the public at large are very often unaware of the appalling injuries that can be inflicted on a workman in the course of a quite ordinary day's work. We should keep our minds on things of this nature when we are considering legislation such as that which is now before us.
With regard to payments, costs, and things like that, it is well to remember that, while the industrialists have, no doubt, invested a great deal of their money in industry and expect a fair return for that money, the workers, on their part, have invested the only thing they have, that is, their lives, in that industry and that investment should be safeguarded by fair compensation in the event of accident, particularly where serious accident can easily spell tragedy for a man's entire family.
It is to the credit of the Labour members that the weekly payments for workmen's compensation are on the way up. I think that, up to 1949, the maximum weekly payment was 37/6. When Deputy Norton was Minister for Social Welfare he raised the amount to 50/-. Now, our present Minister for Social Welfare has raised it a bit further and brought it up to 90/-. That step shows that those most closely in touch with working conditions appreciate the hazards to which most of our workers are exposed. Again, I congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this Bill.
Mr. Kissane Mr. Kissane
Mr. Kissane: As so much has already been said on this measure, I do not propose to keep the House very long. There are however a few matters to which I should like to refer. I think that, in any measure of social welfare, the overriding consideration should be the welfare of the community as a whole: I think that is an accepted procedure all round. It is rather doubtful, having regard to some of its provisions,  if this measure is one which will redound to the benefit of the community as a whole. Of course, any Government would be bound to pay special attention to the weaker sections of the community and to the most needy sections of the community. It is only natural, then, that our primary consideration in a case like this should be the welfare of the working man.
As has already been said, we are being fairly generous and, indeed, no fault would be found with that if we had control of the generosity ourselves. The generosity, however, will come out of other people's pockets and I suppose that that is the reason why a decision has not yet been taken to have workmen's compensation incorporated in our general social welfare code. Workmen's compensation is on a plane all by itself.
I want to deal now with the increase in workmen's compensation from 50/- to 90/- per week. We should like to know from the Minister—I think the question has already been asked—what increase that is likely to mean in the rate of the insurance premium. Of course, there are different premium rates in operation. There is the case where greater risk is involved and, in that case, it is only natural that the insurance premium would be high. Then there is the other type of case where the person is in ordinary employment and where there is no special risk but only a general risk. In such a case the premium is naturally lower. However, if there is to be an increase in workmen's compensation from 50/- to 90/- per week, then there must be a corresponding increase of about 45 per cent. in the amount of the premium. In other words, the insurance company will make sure that if there is this increase they will recoup themselves to that extent.
Mr. Corish Mr. Corish
Mr. Corish: Of course, there are intermediate payments for the injured workman with a wife and dependents. It is not an increase of £2 10s. to £4 10s. for everybody. There is the case of an injured workman with a wife and one child and, again, the case  of an injured workman with a wife and two children, and so forth.
Mr. Kissane Mr. Kissane
Mr. Kissane: I understand that. However, the maximum increase is from 50/- to 90/- per week. I have no objection to this. I should like the Minister, when replying, to go more minutely into every aspect of that question.
I must confess I do not find the same objection to Section 8 which some other Senators seem to find. Senator Douglas and Senator Cogan have suggested that a person could be found by a court to be totally incapacitated in respect of the work that he has been engaged in and that, after getting compensation by way of lump sum, he could still be in a position to take up alternative employment. I feel that that position is already in existence. At the present time, an employer can make an application to the court to have the weekly sum being paid to the employee redeemed and there is nothing to prevent that person—if he is able—after having got the compensation by way of lump sum, from seeking alternative employment later on. I suggest that only in very rare cases would such a thing occur.
Reference has already been made to Section 10. I do not want to labour the point too much but I, too, am not happy about the section. In my view it is wrong to put a single workman more or less on the same plane as a married workman. That is at variance with our general code of social legislation. The Minister mentioned a few reasons for doing so, the first being that a single workman could have dependents: there are many cases of it. Surely, however, there could be a way of providing for a single workman with dependents besides interfering with the position that exists relative to the married man. Like some other Senators, I am inclined to think that that section should be amended.
Our difficulty now, in relation to the putting down of amendments, is that this is the end of the session and that if we were to put down amendments and if the Minister were to accept any of them, then the amendments would have to go back to the Dáil and the Dáil would have to be reassembled to  deal with the matter. Therefore, I think that if we do put down amendments it is a foregone conclusion that the Minister will not accept them because if he did it would bring about the situation I have referred to. As some other Senators said, it is a pity the Minister could not wait a bit until we should have at our disposal the findings of the committee which he proposes to set up. I regard the consideration of this Bill to-day—before we have the findings of that committee which is to be set up—as more or less putting the cart before the horse.
I am in agreement with those who say that workmen's compensation should be incorporated in the general code of welfare legislation. I suppose that day will come sooner or later and perhaps the day will also come when workmen's compensation will be made compulsory. Probably the reason why it has not been made compulsory up to now is that successive Governments realised that they would have to step in and find portion of the money. That is a deterrent, I think, to compulsory workmen's compensation, but it would be a good thing, apart from the question of workmen's compensation being incorporated in the general code of welfare legislation, if the various Workmen's Compensation Acts could be consolidated, so that people would know better where they are in relation to the matter.
Mr. Murphy Mr. Murphy
Mr. Murphy: One thing which struck me rather forcibly in the Minister's speech was the fact that he referred to this Bill as an interim measure. I had thought that in these circumstances there would be a general welcome for the measure and a wish to expedite its enactment. I fear, however, that the measure has been welcomed somewhat in the way in which the visit of the proverbial mother-in-law would be welcomed, in that we all say: “It is welcome, but——”. I want to go to the other extreme and say that it is very welcome to the Labour Party, and, even though it may not go quite as far as we wish, we recognise all the difficulties and are most anxious that it should be implemented as quickly as possible.
 As to the objection of our friends on the opposite side with regard to the wiping out of the supplementary allowances, I wonder if they are making the point that they consider the maximum of 90/- per week too high for single people, because what in effect the Minister has done in this measure is simply to alter the present maximum, with the supplementary allowances, in view of the changed value of money. The maximum formerly for an injured workman with a wife and two children was 76/- per week and that is now being increased to 90/- per week. It is not quite the 25 per cent. increase which I think would be necessary, in view of the change in the value of money, but if he were to apply the same principle to the single man, what he would be doing is proposing a rate of somewhere around 62/6 for the single man. Do our friends on the opposite side say they would have preferred a measure providing for 62/6 odd per week for a single man plus the supplementary allowances, bringing it at the very maximum to 90/-? Instead, what the Minister has done in fixing 90/- is saying that the single man is getting greater compensation than is really warranted on the basis of the change in the value of money. He has done that and I personally welcome that part of the Bill.
With regard to Section 8, which has been brought under criticism here, I I have to say at once that I would have preferred the section as it was in the original Bill introduced in the Dáil, but I am prepared to accept that there were some difficulties in the Minister's way, and, in order to get this legislation on the Statute Book, I think the section as it is should be accepted. It goes too far for some people and does not go far enough for others. I think this is a compromise which should be accepted.
I feel with Senator Kissane that amendments at this juncture serve no good purpose and I would particularly draw the Senator's attention to the fact that there are quite a number of deserving cases existing on the 50/-, with the supplements, who are anxiously awaiting the appointed day. I would strongly urge the Minister that that appointed day should be  fixed as quickly as possible, and I suggest that the Seanad should not hamper the Minister in any way in declaring that day. Definitely increases in the maximum are warranted and we all appreciate that. I do not think any of us would wish to delay the Minister or hamper him in any way in appointing the day, so that these deserving cases can get an increase in the compensation being paid to them. Let us be very clear on that. These people are anxiously waiting for an increase in their compensation and I would press very strongly that there should be no delay whatever in fixing the appointed day so that these increases can be paid to them.
I was interested in Senator Cogan's point that farmers who employ labour are penalised for employing that labour. I think his facts are not correct, because so far as I know a farmer employing two workmen pays for insurance to cover workmen's compensation somewhere between £10 and £12 per annum in premiums. As against that, he gets an allowance on his rates of £17 per annum in respect of each workman, so that in effect the man in the example he quoted who employs two workers would benefit to a net amount of about £24. The non-employer, as he says, does not have to pay any premium for workmen's compensation. As against that, he gets no allowance on the rates and he is actually worse off than the man who, according to Senator Cogan, is penalised for employing labour. That is not correct and I think that should be made very clear.
I have stressed the need for having this measure implemented as quickly as possible. I certainly will not be at fault in delaying the Seanad and will conclude now. I want to make the point very clear and very strong that deserving cases are awaiting anxiously the enactment of this Bill so that the Minister can fix the appointed day for the increase in workmen's compensation. I trust that no Senator will wish to delay the Bill or prevent the Minister from making that increase.
Mr. Corish Mr. Corish
Mr. Corish: I do not claim for this  Bill any more than is in it. Senator Hawkins opened up the debate and tried to talk down the Bill for what was not in it. When the Government was formed, one of the points in its 12-point programme included a promise to improve the workmen's compensation code. Effect is being given to that promise in this Bill. There was also the promise of the Government, and an announcement by me to the effect, that there is a commission to be established—as a matter of fact, it is now in the process of being established—to inquire into the whole code of workmen's compensation. From the remarks of the Senators here and from the discussion in the Dáil, it seems very desirable that such a commission should be set up. Many Senators have mentioned snags which I did not and will not, attempt to correct in this Bill. My only intention is to improve the code in certain respects and to do it as quickly as I can.
This Bill, briefly, is designed to raise the weekly allowance from £2 10s. as basic to £4 10s. as maximum. It is of interest to mention that the £4 10s. a week as maximum will not be applied to every single worker. It must be realised that a man's previous earnings must have been at the rate of £6 a week and that those under £6 get merely 75 per cent. of their weekly earnings. It means that the worker in receipt of £8, £9 or £10 a week does not get 75 per cent. of his earnings but gets merely £4 10s., so I do not think we are as extravagant as some people represent this Bill to be. It must be remembered that workers in the low brackets—forestry workers and agricultural workers—are not getting this £4 10s. per week to which certain people take exception.
This Bill is designed to raise the amount of the lump sum to be paid to dependents in the event of the death of the injured workman. Again, I do not think anyone can say we are being extravagant. The maximum is now raised to £1,800. I do not think anybody could claim that £1,800, as compensation to a wife and children for the death of the breadwinner, is too big.
The Bill also raises the age for  juvenile dependents from 15 to 16. I decided to do this to bring the age limit more or less into line with the age limit for dependents under the general social welfare codes. This Bill also cuts out the three-day waiting period in respect of injured workmen, a workman whose injury lasts for more than two weeks. Up to this the worker would have to remain injured or unable to work for a period of four weeks before he was paid for the first three days. Now that period is cut to two weeks. This Bill also cuts out the dependents' allowance, which I shall deal with later on.
Many of those on my right-hand side here take exception, in a back-handed sort of way, to the fact that workmen's compensation is now being raised to the maximum of £4 10s. per week. They are crying salt tears, in my opinion, because the other social welfare allowances are too low. I appreciate more than anyone in the Seanad that these allowances are too low, but I think I have given an indication—and that the Government has given an indication—of the road which we intend to travel, inasmuch as the Government has got over the first big fence in the improvement in social welfare by the increase that has lately been given in old age pensions, widows' and orphans' pensions and blind pensions. The Government is pledged, and will fulfil its promise, in respect of sickness benefit, disability benefit, unemployment assistance and unemployment insurance.
There never has been any attempt by any Government to relate workmen's compensation to social welfare benefit and I am not proposing to do that in this Bill. We have had workmen's compensation since 1897, when we had no social welfare benefit at all, no old age pensions, sickness benefit, disability benefit, unemployment assistance or unemployment insurance. I am sticking to the code of workmen's compensation as established in 1897 and I do not pretend to do any more than that. The principle of the code is to compensate an injured workman for loss of earnings and no more. I am merely doing that  and the increase now up to a maximum of £4 10s. is only just in step with the increase in wages that has occurred over the years.
The dependents' allowance is something to which I took exception when the 1953 Act was going through, and to which the members of the present Government took exception then, and this is the first opportunity we have got to change it. I do not think there should be any difference between the rate of compensation paid to a single man as against a married man— because, as I said, the basis of the whole code is to compensate for loss of earnings. I reiterate what I said in the beginning. If we were to adopt that principle in respect of workmen's compensation we might well find ourselves where employers would find themselves in adopting the same practice in the employment of men and in the payment of wages.
Section 8 of this Bill and the Bill as introduced into the Dáil was a serious bone of contention. My reaction, when I came to improve the Workmen's Compensation Act, was to give to the injured workman the same right that was, and still is, enjoyed by the employer. The employer at present has the right—and has it since 1934—to redeem these weekly payments. He redeemed them only, in my opinion, when it was to his own advantage and workers have suffered since 1934 in the matter of lump sum payments. Cheques have been dangled before their eyes and lump sum agreements have been suggested to them. In many cases, in the majority of cases, the unfortunate workmen, through force of circumstances, have accepted these lump sum payments—which have been realised to be inadequate indeed. I decided that if the employer had that right the worker should have a similar right. For that reason, I included in the original Bill a section which was practically identical with Section 27 of the 1934 Act, which gave that right to an employer.
I was perfectly frank with the Dáil when I said that I was not particularly happy about the section as it then stood. I asked Dáil Éireann to give  me their honest opinion on it. Unfortunately, I did not get a very full opinion, nor was I able to clarify my own mind on Section 8 by the discussion that we had on the Second Reading in the Dáil. For that reason, I took the initiative myself on the Committee Stage and I introduced an amendment to delete the section. By that device, if I may call it so, I provoked a discussion on Section 8, that is, on the right of the worker to redeem the weekly allowances. The majority opinion in the Dáil was that a section such as has been included in this Bill would be desirable and that the present form of it would be more desirable than the form of Section 8 in the original Bill.
Senator Douglas is worried about the section and mentioned in the course of his remarks that possibly I should have consulted certain interested sections of the community before I attempted to reinclude Section 8. I would like to assure Senator Douglas that, when the Bill was published originally, I consulted certain sections who were interested in that particular section. They were worried about the period of six months after which a worker could redeem. I suggested to them that possibly after two years a worker should have the right to redeem and they agreed with me unanimously.
They were also worried about sub-section (3) of the original Section 8, which gave the right to redeem to a worker in the case of partial and nonpermanent incapacity. They suggested that it could not be operated and that I should cut it out entirely from the Bill. I left it in at that stage but it was the opinion of the Dáil that it should be taken out. The general opinion of the Seanad would seem to indicate that it would be undesirable to reintroduce such a sub-section.
Perhaps I could allay some of the fears expressed by Senator Douglas in respect of Section 8. I should like to point out that “total permanent incapacity” means incapacity not only in respect of the particular trade or occupation which the injured workman  follows but in respect of any occupation. It even includes his being able to work for himself, to be self-employed so to speak. I think the courts are well fitted to determine whether or not a man after two years' incapacity would be able to take up remunerative employment. However, if Senator Douglas wishes to move an amendment to Section 8 in order to clarify his own mind and the mind of the House, I have no objection but I would like to assure him that total permanent incapacity is in respect of any occupation whatsoever.
Other Senators mentioned the probable cost. I did not mention costs in my Second Reading speech, either here or in the Dáil, because it has never been mentioned in the introduction of Workmen's Compensation (Amending) Bills but, for the benefit of the Seanad, I should like to say that it is estimated that the cost will be an extra 25 per cent. I do not think it would cripple industry or agriculture to have a 25 per cent. premium increase for the benefit of an injured workman and for the benefit of a workman who met his death through his employment. I am informed—I have not firm figures for this—that it will cost employers, those who insure and those who do not insure, an extra £450,000. That spread over industry and agriculture would not, I think, impose the crushing burdens forecast by some Senators to-day.
I think these were the main points raised. Perhaps we can go into the section in more detail on the Committee Stage but I want to assure the House that I am as conscious as any of the Senators about the delay in the establishment of this commission. I want to assure them that I hope to have the commission established and the personnel announced in a very short time. I will press on them to send their findings to me, and, through me, to the Government within the shortest possible time.
Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 20th July, 1955.
Seanad Éireann 45 Workmen's Compensation (Amendment) Bill, 1954—Second Stage.