A Guide to Claiming Work-Related Illness Compensation

If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by a work related illness we can help.

The purpose of this guide is to help anyone who has suffered a work related illness and is considering a legal claim for compensation. If you are looking for medical advice, please see the NHS website.


A work-related illness (also known as an 'industrial disease' or 'occupational disease') describes an injury, illness or condition that is sustained as a result of unsafe working conditions or exposure to hazardous materials in the workplace.

Stress is also considered an occupational illness. For more information see our Work Related Stress Claim page.

The latest data available in 2019 is published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).  The data shows that in 2018:

  • 1.4 million workers in the UK were affected work-related illnesses
  • 0.6 million people affected by stress, anxiety or depression
  • 0.5 million people affected by musculoskeletal disorders

Can I claim work-related illness compensation for non-industrial occupations?

The HSE have argued that their report 'substantially underestimates' illnesses in non-industrial workplaces.

As a general rule, it is possible to make a claim regardless of whether you became ill when working in a factory, an office or shop, provided that your illness resulted from an employer's negligence.

Work-related skin disease, for example, can affect cleaners, hairdressers, gardeners and kitchen staff, but many staff may not realise that their illness of health condition relates to their work and may not be aware that they can claim compensation.

Work-related illness claims, or occupational health claims, can be made in respect of a very wide range of illnesses. Claims that Quittance's network of solicitors have successfully pursued include:

What is the law on work-related illness?

A large body of legislation, recommended protocols and case law determine the how specific work-related illness claims are handled. For example, the Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979 entitles employees exposed to asbestos under certain conditions to lump-sum payments.

Who is responsible for my illness?

Your employer has a legal obligation to provide you with a safe working environment. The employer's duty is defined by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), as:

"a duty of care to their employees, which means that they should take all steps which are reasonably possible to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing."

Where your employer has breached this duty, and you have sustained injury or illness as a result, you may claim for compensation.

In some cases, it may not be necessary for an employer to have prior knowledge of the specific cause of your illness, if, for example, the employer has failed to carry out regular inspections of your workplace. In other circumstances, it may be necessary that your employer was informed at an earlier date, and that they failed to take action in a reasonable time frame.

Can I claim compensation for an illness caused by another member of staff?

A workplace accident claim may be made against a negligent employer in the event that one of their employees causes harm in the course of their employment, due to the principle of vicarious liability.

Vicarious liability claims for workplace illness are likely to be less common than for work accidents. However, in circumstances where another member of staff has caused your illness, whether due to workplace bullying, negligence or recklessness, you may be able to make a claim against your employer.

By law, your employer must have insurance to cover the cost of your compensation, whereas an individual employee is unlikely to be able to afford to pay compensation themselves.

Doctor discharging patient

Do I have a work-related illness claim?

It should be possible to make a work-related illness claim if:

  • you were diagnosed in the last three years and;
  • someone else, such as your employer, was to blame.

Even if these two points don't apply to you, you may still be able to make a claim.

To get impartial advice on whether you have a claim, speak to injury claims expert on 0800 612 7456.

A brief phone consultation will tell you exactly where you stand. There is no obligation to start a claim.

You can also find out if you have a claim with our Online Claim Checker.

What if the injury was diagnosed years after the event?

Typically, the dates of the injury and accident are the same. However, some injuries manifest themselves months or even years after the accident or exposure.

In this case, the clock starts ticking on the date of discovery (the date of diagnosis) of the injury rather than the date of the accident.

Read more

What if the employer has gone bust?

Even if an employer or their insurer has gone out of business, a former worker may still be able to make a work-related accident claim.

Employers are legally required to carry Employer's Liability Insurance. This insurance ensures that protection is in place for employees affected by work-related accidents or industrial disease. The majority of successful claims are not paid out by the employer but by the employer's insurance company.

In extreme cases, where an employer and their insurer have both ceased trading, and no other responsible party can be traced, compensation may still be available through the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Read more: Can I claim compensation if my employer has gone bust?

Can I claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit?

Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) is a non-contributory, no-fault weekly benefit paid to workers and former workers who become disabled because of an accident at work or due to certain industrial diseases.

Anyone who has sustained a disability as a result of injuries or diseases arising from work may be eligible to claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

Read more

Can I claim if the work-related illness made an existing injury or condition worse?

Yes, although demonstrating this can be more difficult than proving a straightforward work-related illness injury, so legal and medical advice should be sought as early as possible.

Check my claim

Can I make a work-related illness claim against multiple employers?

You may have developed a work-related illness due to the conditions in one job or in the course of working for a number of employers over several years.

A claim against multiple employers may also be made in cases where you were exposed to hazardous substances multiple times over the course of multiple jobs, and it is not clear which exposure incident specifically caused the resulting illness. This is a common factor in asbestos-related claims.

Claiming against multiple employers is also common in cases where poor working conditions, or risk of exposure to hazardous materials, was endemic across an industry.

Your solicitor will advise on whether you should bring a claim against multiple employers and will conduct the necessary legal work to ensure all relevant former employers and their insurers are identified.

To make a compensation claim, the working conditions or exposure to dangerous materials needs to:

  • be the cause of your injuries
  • be due an employer's actions or negligence
  • have taken place, or been brought to your attention, within the last three years

The personal injury solicitor must demonstrate that, on the balance of probabilities, your employer at the time was legally responsible for the accident, and that your illness resulted from the accident.

An employee can still be compensated for illness if responsibility is shared by the employer and the employee, such as in cases where the claimant worked in unsafe conditions but could have done more to protect themselves from harm. Generally, these claims are resolved with a split liability agreement.

What if the company you worked for no longer exists?

Claims can often be made even where an employer has ceased trading or has declared bankruptcy. The Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 makes it a legal requirement that companies insure against employee injury or illness.

The Employers' Liability Tracing Office (ELTO) is not-for-profit company that hold a historic database of the insurers used by employers. Solicitors use the ELTO database to track down insurers responsible for companies that have been bought out, changed ownership, or otherwise ceased trading.

Can I claim if the work-related illness made an existing injury or condition worse?

Yes, although demonstrating this can be more difficult than proving a straightforward work-related illness injury, so legal and medical advice should be sought as early as possible.

Check my claim

What work-related illnesses can I claim for?

Generally speaking, a claim can be made in relation to any illness developed during the course of your employment, if the illness was the result of a breach of your employer's duty of care to you.

Medical conditions prompting a work-related or occupational illness claim range from noise-induced hearing loss and RSI to mesothelioma and other cancers.

How we have helped others

Quittance's network of expert solicitors will answer any questions you have and will run through your options before you decide to make a claim.

Work-related illness claim advice

Navigating claimants through the claims process to achieve a successful settlement for work-related illness, Quittance's personal injury experts have acted for claimants injured in a wide range of circumstances.

Compensation awards and settlements have been negotiated for illness including:

  • repetitive strain injuries (RSI)
  • asbestos-related disease
  • silicosis
  • noise-induced hearing loss
  • dermatitis
  • musculoskeletal injuries, including back and neck pain

Quittance's solicitors focus on the legal side you can prioritise your recovery.

They offer advice and support in plain English through the claims process. It is likely that your case will not need to go to Court.

Whether the Court makes an award for damages or an out-of-court settlement is negotiated, our fair No Win, No Fee approach means you keep more of your compensation.

How much compensation can I claim for work-related illness?

The amount of money you could claim for your work-related illness will depend on:

  • the extent of your injury, and
  • any financial losses or costs you have incurred.

At the start of your claim, your solicitor will consider the many ways your work-related illness has affected your life. Your solicitor will take all of these effects into account to calculate the correct compensation award for you.

This calculation will factor in 'general damages' and 'special damages'.

General damages

General damages are awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA).

Awards for general damages are set by the Judicial College and published in their guidelines for personal injury awards.

Special damages

Special damages are for financial losses and expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident.

What can I claim for after a work-related illness? (see list)

Examples of special damages (losses you can claim for) include:

  • Lost earnings (including future earnings)
  • Medical treatment costs
  • Physiotherapy
  • Travel costs
  • Costs of care
  • Costs of adapting your home or car

What is the average injury compensation for a work-related illness claim?

The Judicial College injury tables give a approximate idea of the ranges awarded for different injuries.

However, the money you would receive following a work-related illness will depend entirely on your specific circumstances.

Your work-related illness compensation will be calculated based on the unique impact your injuries have had on your life, your ability to work, and the actual financial losses you have incurred as a result of your injuries.

See the injury table above for some examples.

Find out what your work-related illness claim could be worth now

Assessing a claim's value at the outset can be complicated, particularly if you have multiple injuries.

If you would like a FREE claim estimate with no obligation to start a claim, call 0800 612 7456.

Alternatively, our compensation calculator will give you an instant estimate of what your claim is worth.

Calculate my claim

How long do I have to make a work-related illness claim?

In general, you have a time limit of up to 3 years from the date of the work-related illness to make an injury claim.

The last date you can make a claim is known as the claim limitation date - after which your work-related illness claim becomes 'statute barred'.

Can I claim for a work-related illness after 3 years?

The general rule is no, you cannot start a claim more than three years after a work-related illness.

In reality, there are a number of factors that can affect whether a work-related illness claim will be taken on by a solicitor.

Will I still be able to claim for a work-related illness after the law changes in April 2020?

The law relating to personal injury claims is changing in April 2020.

You will no longer be able to claim no win, no fee compensation using a solicitor for lower value claims (under £5,000).

In addition, compensation for whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries will be reduced.

Caring and sensitive support

Your solicitor will handle your work-related illness claim from the initial consultation through to the financial settlement. In addition, your solicitor will work with other specialists to help you with:

  • Financial support: interim payments while you are unable to work.
  • Advice: on personal injury trusts, tax and welfare benefits.
  • Coordination: with rehabilitation providers and therapists.
  • Access: to treatment and therapies not always available on the NHS.

Who pays for this specialist help?

The cost of treatment will be factored into your compensation settlement paid by the defendant or their insurance company. Should you require private treatment before the case settles, an interim payment to cover treatment costs may be possible.

How long does a work-related illness compensation claim take?

Many personal injury claims are straightforward and compensation is agreed without long delays. Complex matters typically more time to resolve. There are some factors which will delay the matter, e.g. if the other party does not accept liability.

It can be hard to be sure how much time it will take to agree a settlement or award . Sometimes it can benefit the injured party to reject an initial offer to settle, as a longer negotiation may result in a better compensation settlement.

To get a more accurate prognosis of how long your claim is likely to take, talk to a work-related illness claims specialist on 0800 612 7456 or get a free Compensation Claim Report.

What are the chances of success?

The three tests involved in demonstrating liability in a personal injury claim are:

  1. was a duty of care owed
  2. was that duty breached
  3. was the injury caused by the breach

In general, these tests amount to "Did your employment cause your injuries "

If it has been acknowledged by the employer that they are responsible the likelihood of your claim succeeding is very high.

If the employer does not acknowledge liability fully, reaching a positive outcome can be more of a challenge.

Many years may have passed since the circumstances surrounding the cause of your illness took place. Witnesses and other evidence may be difficult to track down.

Quittance's experienced solicitors will work with you to collate as much evidence as possible to strengthen your case.

No win, no fee, no risk

No win, no fee takes the risk out of making a work-related illness claim. If you don't win any compensation, you won't have to pay your solicitor any legal fees.

No win, no fee guarantee

If you have been injured and it wasn't your fault, our no win, no fee guarantee takes the risk out of making a work-related illness injury compensation claim.

What do I pay if I win my work-related illness claim?

Your injury solicitor will receive a success fee which is deducted from your compensation, only after your compensation is awarded. The solicitor's success fee can be up to 25%. Your solicitor will agree a success fee with you before you start your claim.

What do I pay if I do not win my work-related illness claim?

If your work-related illness claim is not successful then you will not have to pay any fees.

Read more about how no win, no fee works

Please note, under a No Win, No Fee Agreement (CFA), fees may apply if a claimant refuses to cooperate, or abandons their claim after the legal work has started, or if the claim is fraudulent.

How can Quittance help?

Our highly experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning workplace illness claims. Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you.

If you have any questions, or would like to start a No Win No Fee claim, we are open 8am to 9pm weekdays, 9am to 6pm on Saturday, and 9.30am to 5pm on Sunday.

Call us FREE 0800 612 7456 or arrange a callback:

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Work-Related Illness FAQ's

Can I claim for someone else?

Yes. In certain circumstances, it is possible to claim compensation on behalf of another person in the capacity of a 'litigation friend'.

If an injured person is either too young or vulnerable, too injured or otherwise unable to claim on their own behalf, their litigation friend can handle the claim process on behalf of the injured person.

The litigation friend will be responsible for communicating with the solicitors, and for making decisions in respect of the claim.

Read more about claiming on behalf of another person.

Can I claim if I was partly responsible for an accident?

You may still be able to claim compensation even if you contributed to your accident or to your injuries.

However, if you were partly to blame (known as contributory negligence), your compensation may be reduced and it may be more difficult to prove liability.

Read more about claiming compensation if you were partly responsible for an accident.

How long will my claim take?

The length of time needed to secure compensation can vary considerably.

For example, straightforward car accident claims can settle in a matter of weeks, whereas complex medical negligence cases can take years.

Injury claims can also take longer if it is not clear who is responsible for your injury, or if liability is denied by the defendant.

Taken from average case times, this table sets out approximately how long personal injury claims take to settle:

Personal injury claim type

Estimated claim duration*

Road accident claims

4 to 9 months

Work accident claims

6 to 9 months

Medical negligence claims

12 to 36 months

Industrial disease claims

12 to 18 months

Public place or occupiers’ liability claims

6 to 9 months

MIB claims (uninsured drivers)

3 to 4 months**

CICA claims (criminal assault)

12 to 18 months**

*RTA and other claims processed through the Ministry of Justice portal can settle faster.
**Official Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) Government agency and Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) figures.

Read more about how long personal injury claims take.

Will I have to go to court?

Highly unlikely. The vast majority of claims that are settled by Quittance’s solicitor panel are settled out of court.

Only a very small percentage (approx. 5%) of personal injury claims go to court. Generally, only very complex cases, or those where liability cannot be resolved, end up in court.

Cases that do ultimately go to court are held in front of a judge, not a jury.

Read more: Will my injury claim go to court and what if it does?

Will I have to go to a solicitor's office?

No. You will not need visit a solicitor's office. As with most professional services, it is no longer necessary to meet face to face with your solicitor. Personal injury claims are dealt with via email, post and telephone.

Should you need to have a medical, this will be arranged at a medical centre near you or at your GP's surgery.

Read more: Will I have to visit a solicitor's office?

Can I get an early compensation payment?

If you suffer financial hardship as a result of an injury, you may be able to claim an interim compensation payment.

An interim payment is a partial settlement of your claim which is paid before your claim is concluded. The amount you receive in interim payments would then be deducted from your final compensation settlement or award.

Read more about interim compensation payments.

Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

About the author

Howard qualified as a solicitor in 1984 and has specialised in personal injury for over 25 years. He is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and is a recognised Law Society Personal Injury Panel expert.

Read more about this Quittance Legal Expert