I understand that insurers have signalled increases in employers' liability insurance premiums for this year. Insurers have pointed to the increased cost of settling claims as the cause for the projected increase. The number of new claims reported under employers' liability insurance by the Irish Insurance Federation to the Health and Safety Authority decreased from 9,758 in 1997 to 9,211 in 1999. Central Statistics Office figures, also available to the Health and Safety Authority, seem to bear this out showing that the rate of incidents involving more than three days absence fell from 1,746 per 100,000 workers in 1998 to 1,049 in 1999.
EU law prevents me from intervening in the pricing or underwriting of insurance. Accordingly, to address the high level of costs in insurance, a number of initiatives are under way. Proposals will be put to Government shortly, the objective of which is to reduce the costs of delivery of personal injury compensation. In addition, there have been a number of initiatives to encourage greater health and safety in the workplace. In particular, the social partners, the insurance industry and the Department have promoted the workplace safety initiative. This is designed to reduce accidents in the workplace and, in the unfortunate event that they occur, to provide procedures that are fair to and supportive of the injured worker. The initiative will continue to be promoted in the coming year.