A COMPENSATION scheme set up by the Government for those made ill by their workplace has been described as an "unholy mess" which needs urgent reform.

A report by health researchers at Stirling University found the system only covers a tiny proportion of those affected by occupational cancers and other fatal diseases. Among them are breast cancer linked to shift work and lung cancer related to welding and diesel exhaust.

The study questions why these conditions are not on the list of industrial diseases for which state compensation, known as the industrial injuries disablement benefit (IIDB), is payable.

This is despite their inclusion in official cancer prevention priority rankings produced by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) in 2012, the report said.

Professor Andrew Watterson, from the university's occupational and environmental health research group, said: "The industrial injuries disablement benefit scheme excludes many conditions and those that are covered tend to be subject to claim-barring disability thresholds, minimum exposure times and job restrictions."

HSE data indicates that there are almost 13,600 new cases of occupational cancer each year, the study said, yet in 2012 IIDB was paid in just 2,600 cases.

If asbestos-related cancers are not included, just 90 payouts were made.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "The Industrial Injuries Scheme covers a wide range of diseases known to be a risk from certain jobs and is based on evidence and consultation with experts.

"The Advisory Council continues to monitor emerging research to provide independent advice to ministers."