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Public liability insurance

Published: 02/07/15

Covers the cost of claims made by members of the public for incidents that occur in connection with your business activities. Incidents that cause:

• Personal injury

• Loss of or damage to property

• Death

These incidents can either take place on your own business premises, or off-site, including at events organised by your company.

Who needs it?
You must have public liability cover if:

• Your business premises are visited by members of the public, employees from other companies and clients/customers.

• Your business is conducted off-site or you organise off-site events or activities that are attended by members of the public.

• You run a business from your home and people visit for professional purposes.

For horse riding establishments it is a legal requirement to have public liability insurance.

Who does it cover?
Public liability insurance covers anyone (excluding employees) with whom you interact as part of your business operations such as:

• anyone visiting your business

• customers/ clients

• people taking part in events or activities you have organised

• people watching events or activities you have organised

Public liability insurance does not cover employees, temporary staff, students or people on work placements – for this you need Employers’ Liability insurance.

Common mistakes
Your policy schedule is based on what you tell us about your working practices – so your Business Description must include everything that you do.

For example, a roofer client categorically stated that he didn’t do any heat work on flat roofs etc. and his policy premium was worked out accordingly. However, he did in fact repair a flat roof, using heat and set a third party’s property on fire. So when it came to make a claim, there was a problem and insurers were within their rights not to pay it. In this instance we were able to help our client out, but we certainly cannot rely on this.

The clear message is that we need to know exactly what work you are doing and particularly if any of it is dangerous. This might include handling woodworking machinery, but also heat working and hazardous materials, such as asbestos. And again please inform us if this changes during the life of the policy and not just at renewal.

Also you need to look out for situations where you end up giving advice, particularly as a by-product of your primary occupation – this will not be covered by your standard public liability insurance.

The other important point for public liability is the standard exclusion, within construction, for defects in materials and design. For example if a contractor erects a wall, which then falls and causes damage to someone else’s property, public liability insurance will cover the property damage, but not the cost to rebuild the wall.

Employers’ Liability Insurance
Employers’ liability insurance covers the cost of compensating employees who are injured at or become ill through work.

Who needs it?
It is a legal requirement for employers to have Employers’ Liability Insurance. Employers who do not have it can be fined up to £2,500 for every day that appropriate cover is not in place.

What it covers?
Injury or disease that arises as a result of employment.

Exempt businesses There are however a couple of exceptions, where cover is not required:

• Companies with no employees

• Family businesses that employ only family members

Who does it cover?
An employer’s liability policy should cover:

• all permanent employees

• contract, casual and seasonal employees

• labour-only subcontractors

Your policy should cover claims brought by:

• all permanent employees

• contract, casual and seasonal employees

• labour-only subcontractors

An employee is someone who has who has National Insurance contributions and income tax deducted from their salary; whose location, hours and conditions of their work are controlled by their employer; who cannot be replaced by their employer if they are unable to work.

Your policy should also cover claims brought by:

• temporary staff, including students and people on work placements

• volunteers, advisers, referees and marshals

Common mistakes
Some employers, especially within construction, use ‘labour only’ sub-contractors – but if these workers are ultimately under that employer’s direction and control they are deemed to be an employee. Any and all employees must be insured by law and there are heavy fines and penalties for companies who do not comply.

If your workforce changes significantly throughout the course of your insurance cover, then you must inform us, so that we know you are adequately covered.

Other common problems
On all policies, we have seen issues around:

• Business descriptions not covering all activities

• Failure to disclose conditions, such as CCJ’s, subsidence, previous claims etc.

• Failure to understand or misinterpret questions around financials – wages, turnover, gross profit etc.

• Failure to be told about or understand warranties or conditions.

You must thoroughly read your policy – these are the terms and conditions of your insurance, put simply – what will be paid on and what won’t.

If there is any part of it that you don’t understand – you must speak to us.

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