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Updated U.K. rehab code seen as aid to employers' return-to-work policies


LONDON—The U.K. risk management association has welcomed updates to a code of practice designed to improve access to rehabilitation for personal injury insurance claimants.

The voluntary rehabilitation code, first developed in 1999 for lawyers and insurers, aims to promote rehabilitation to ensure injured employees can return to work sooner.

Last week, a working party made up of representatives from the International Underwriting Assn., Assn. of British Insurers and the Nottingham, England-based Assn. of Personal Injury Lawyers, among others, published a revised version.

The revamped code introduces a timetable for key stages within the process of care, the working party said.

Under the new version of the code, an assessor's response is expected within 14 days of an initial meeting with the claimant, and compensators must reply within 21 days where rehabilitation is recommended. Previously, there was no response timetable.

In another major change to the code, rehabilitation can now start even when liability has not been admitted by the compensator.

And rehabilitation paid for by insurers during the litigation period will be nonrefundable, should the claim prove to be unsuccessful in whole or part, according to the revised code. In some rare cases of serious injury, insurers or other compensators may decide to fund rehabilitation--because it can make a big difference to the injured party--and then later deny liability, said Ian Walker, the London-based former president of APIL.

Typically, insurers and other compensators know early on whether they are likely to deny a claim, he said.

The code is predominantly aimed at personal injury lawyers and insurers, but progress also must be made in other areas such as employers liability, noted Justin Jacobs, assistant director of liability and motor at the London-based ABI.

In addition to insurers, the compensators to which the code applies can also include employers with self-insured retentions, public authorities and the government-based National Health Service, noted Mr. Walker.

The Assn. of Insurance & Risk Managers supports the changes to the code, said David Ireland, chairman of the London-based risk management group's rehabilitation and absence management group.

The code has already made a significant difference to the way injured employees are treated and has been of benefit to them, their families, employers and insurers, he said.

The new code is more flexible and accessible "and will enable even more progress to be made in this important area," he said.