Everything you need to know about employers' liability insurance

Supervisors give staff a briefing on staying safe in a warehouseThe opportunity to be your own boss and make a living out of something you love doing is a dream come true for many. But starting your own business also involves masses of hard work, absolute commitment and a fair bit of paperwork

Being organised enough to make sure you've covered everything is a full-time job in itself. The answer may be to take on your first members of staff, but that means a change in dynamic. You're very suddenly the one in charge. The buck stops with you and you're the one tasked with covering all the bases – and that takes some getting used to.

Employers' duty of care

As a business owner and employer, you need to take your responsibilities seriously. Whilst you might want to make work fun (if you can), you also need to make sure your staff are safe and well – and don't become sick or get injured as a result of working for you.

Your duty of care as an employer means that – quite rightly – your employees' welfare is down to you. You're obliged to do everything necessary to ensure their working environment is safe and any equipment you've supplied them with is fit for purpose.

Despite your best efforts, however, things can sometimes go wrong. What happens if an employee is injured or becomes ill and blames you? And worse, then sues you for damages?

That's where insurance comes in. If you have employees, you must have employers' liability insurance.

Do I need employers' liability insurance?

Employers' liability insurance is a legal requirement for most businesses in the UK. Any company with one or more employees must ensure they have cover.

Exemptions from employers' liability insurance

The only exemptions are where:

  • you're a self-employed sole trader and you don't have any employees;
  • you're the only employee and you own at least 50% of the business;
  • you're self-employed and your employees are all family members;
  • your employees aren't based in Great Britain.

What does employers' liability insurance cover?

Employers' liability insurance covers the compensation that may need to be paid if an employee is injured or becomes ill because of their work.

If a claim is made against you and you need to defend yourself (which you will), the insurer appoints and pays for legal expertise to fight your corner.

You may require other business insurances if you need protection against other risks.

Who says I need employers' liability insurance?

The Health and Safety Executive enforces the law on employers' liability. They could fine you up to £2,500 for any day you're without the necessary cover and £1,000 for not displaying the appropriate certificate.

Do I need a certificate of insurance?

You are no longer required to keep a certificate of insurance but claims – particularly for some work-related illnesses – can arise many years after an employee has finished working for you. You should keep a record of your insurance record just in case you need to make a claim.

You must also display a copy of your employers' liability insurance certificate where your employees can see it.

How much insurance cover do I need?

The minimum level of cover is £5m, but you'll find most insurers only offer £10m. That sounds like a lot of cover, but it doesn't mean it's expensive. Annual premiums start from around £30-£40.

How do I get employers' liability insurance?

It's usually quick and easy to sort out. I advise talking to a specialist broker to help point you in the right direction.

Nick Green, PolicyBee professional insurance broker

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