The government is planning to create an electronic database of company-provided insurance policies for employees. Its designed primarily to help victims of industrial diseases who've been unable to get compensation because company records have gone missing.
An estimated 3,000 workers a year miss out on payments for work-induced sickness because the records can't be traced. One of the most common areas for such problems is lung cancer mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos, where the victims may not develop the symptoms for 30 years.
By this time the firm may have been taken over, broken up or even gone out of business. And while the cancer sufferer will know who they worked for at the time, it's extremely unlikely they will know which insurer provided the liability cover. Of course, even if that can be discovered, there's no guarantee the insurer will still be in business either.
The database will be funded by a levy on existing insurers. They'll also provide a fund which will pay out where even the database can't trace the original insurer. That idea has gone down badly with the Association of British Insurers, which argues that it's unfair that today's insurers should pay for the mistakes of past employers.
The Trades Union Congress, which backs the plan, disagrees with this argument, likening the situation to the way hit and run victims can be compensated even if the driver -- and thus their insurer -- can't be traced.