Little oversights with big consequences - SMEs breaking the law as they fail to protect themselves and their livelihoods

As the number of SMEs continues to rise, statistics from AXA Business Insurance suggest that the majority of the 4.9 million SMEs in the UK are, probably unknowingly, operating without the insurance cover they need and over half a million are potentially breaking the law in the process.

16 June 2014

Posted in Product

by Charlotte Chandler (see media contact)

  • over half (53 per cent) of those requiring Employers’ Liability cover by law have failed to buy it
  • forty three per cent of those meeting with the public/clients/suppliers neglect to protect themselves against any accidents/damage they may be responsible for
  • more than fifty per cent (52 per cent) of those paid by clients for business advice fail to buy professional indemnity cover
  • four in ten don’t buy the insurance they need for using their car or van for their business
  • the majority of SMEs do not have enough savings to tide them over for more than a couple of months without working. Yet over three quarters of these have no protection for personal accident

The research, carried out by AXA among the UK’s SMEs shows a worrying lack of protection among what is a fast growing and important part of the UK economy. Darrell Sansom, managing director of AXA Business Insurance says: “Insurance may feel like one of the little bits of admin that you ought to sort out at some point but not having it can have big consequences. Claims for liability can run into millions of pounds and not having cover in place is putting you, your business, your employers, clients and others at risk.”

Employers’ liability is required by law for all businesses who employ staff whether they are part time, full time, permanent or contract. AXA asked all those with relevant employees if they had cover in place and over half were found to be lacking. Furthermore, of those that did have the cover in place, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) failed to display a certificate – an offence that can be punishable with a £1,000 fine.

Motor insurance is also a legal requirement. Many business owners use their own vehicle for their business but only 59 per cent of those have bought either a specific commercial policy or added the required business cover to their regular motor insurance policy. This is required even if the vehicle is only used occasionally in relation to the business.

Other statistics from the study showed:

  • Only 26 per cent of those who run their business from home have spoken to their home insurer about cover for their business
  • Just 22 per cent have arranged any cover for taking their business equipment (laptop/phone etc) away from their home yet over two thirds have a laptop and a mobile/smart phone
  • And only 19 per cent of those who keep their business tools at home have arranged cover for them

Darrell Sansom concludes: “We appreciate that generally, there is no intention on the part of these businesses to break the law or to put themselves and others at risk. Often it is a case of not knowing what’s needed, forgetting to do the admin or possibly worrying about the additional cost of insurance. But a little attention to detail could really mean a lot if you have to make a claim. The average cost of a liability or professional indemnity policy is about £17 a month. And adding business cover to your motor insurance will only cost a few pounds per year.

“If you weigh this up against claims that can rise to millions of pounds, or legal proceedings against you, skipping on the insurance really is not a risk worth taking.”

The AXA research looked at SMEs who had some level of insurance cover to establish where the gaps in that cover might be. There is also evidence that many businesses, particularly those set up from home, have no insurance at all – in a recent report looking at home based businesses 56 per cent had not notified an insurer that they were running a business from home.

There are a few exceptions to this eg direct family members working in a non Limited company but the vast majority require EL

Figures based on average premium for public liability, employers liability and professional indemnity sold online or over the telephone by AXA Business Insurance

AXA Business Insurance and Enterprise Nation Home Insight Report among nearly 800 home based business in March 2014