Whatever business you’re in you’ll need to take out insurance. Here’s what you should know about the different types and how much business insurance you may require.

Why do I need insurance for my business?

Disasters don’t just happen to other businesses. No matter how careful you are, accidents and incidents – such as fires, theft, illness and legal claims – can strike at any time. The results can include loss of income, unexpected outgoings and business disruption.

It’s easy to underestimate the problems that can be caused by major incidents. For example, a flood can damage - or even destroy – property, stock and equipment. It can also mean a loss of business if customers go elsewhere.

Making sure that you’ve got the right small business insurance and adequate levels of cover will help protect your business. And be aware: some types of insurance are not optional – if you don’t have them you’re breaking the law.
 

What types of insurance for small businesses are compulsory?

Of the many types of business insurance, two are compulsory.

Employers’ Liability Insurance

If you employ anyone other than yourself, you must have employers liability insurance of at least £5 million of cover, or more depending on your business activity. (For more details about exceptions see Employers’ Liability Insurance.)

Motor insurance

Obviously, you need motor insurance for company vehicles – at least third-party. But don’t forget that if you or your employees use your own vehicles for business use – for instance, to travel to meetings – you need to make sure that you have specific additional insurance for this.

Where do I buy insurance?

Insurance can be bought by any of the following ways:

Direct from an insurance provider

Buying direct cuts out the ‘middle-men’ i.e. insurance brokers.

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Direct from an insurance provider

This can save money, but not always.

An insurance company will only recommend its own products, so make sure that you compare what’s being offered by different providers.

On the face of it, products from different companies may look the same but take care to read the small print so that you know precisely what’s covered and what’s excluded.

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Through price comparison sites

You can buy business insurance through comparison sites, just as you can for home and car insurance.

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Through price comparison sites

Such sites save you the time and effort of shopping around for the best deal.

They get paid commission by the insurance provider so you won’t have to pay them a fee.

Comparison sites tend to cover the types of policies that small and medium size businesses most commonly need but they may not always have the specialist expertise for the insurance that’s right for your particular business.

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Via an insurance broker

Brokers should be able to use their knowledge of a wide range of products from different insurance companies to identify policies that are right for your specific needs.

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Via an insurance broker

In the event that you do claim on a policy, brokers can deal with insurance companies saving you the hassle of doing it yourself.

Brokers either charge you a fee or get paid by the insurance providers, so don’t be shy about asking them how much they will make on a policy they recommend to you.

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How much business insurance should I have at startup?

To start with you must have the two compulsory types of insurance:

  • Employers’ liability insurance - unless you meet conditions that exempt you, such as being the sole employee - see Employers’ Liability Insurance for more information. 
  • Motor insurance – Company motor insurance would only be needed if you are using a company vehicle. If you use your own vehicle make sure that your personal motor insurance policy covers travel for work purposes

If your products or services could potentially cause harm or damage you need public liability insurance. The vast majority of businesses – including tradespeople and shop owners – make sure they have this, and also in many cases, product liability insurance.

Although it’s not compulsory, you should also very seriously consider taking out building and contents insurance, and if you are a tradesperson, equipment insurance.

If your business is of a consultancy nature – e.g. solicitor, accountant, architect, adviser – as well as public liability insurance you will need professional indemnity insurance (PI) - read more on Professional Indemnity Insurance here. Some professional bodies will not accept you, and some clients will refuse to do business with you unless you have PI.

You may also need insurance that’s specific to your business. For example, a delivery company will need goods in transit insurance.

How much does business insurance cost?

The price of insurance depends on things like:

  • Your business activity
  • The geographical location you work in
  • The products or services you offer
  • The total amount you want to insure
  • The amount of excess you’re prepared to pay
  • The number of claims you’ve made in the past.

For example, the price a building contractor pays for employer’s liability and public liability insurance may be different to the price paid by a cleaning contractor for the same types of insurance. The cost to a roofing business may be significantly more than the cost to a decorating business because of the different levels of risk involved. And insuring for a total liability of £20 million will usually be more expensive than for say £5 million.

Should I buy a single policy or separate business insurance policies?

Many insurance providers combine different types of policies in a single package aimed at particular business types, for example, plumbers’ insurance, beauty salon insurance, architects insurance, etc.

The advantages of a combined policy include:

  • Simpler administration in respect of premium payments, renewal dates and claims, because you are dealing with just one insurer.
  • Avoidance of overlapping cover.
  • Economies of scale, which can result in lower premiums.

But make sure that a packaged set of policies meets your specific needs. If it doesn’t, talk to your broker or provider about tailoring it so it gives you precisely what you need. Any extra specific risks can be covered by adding specialist cover from the same provider, or by taking out an additional policy with another insurer.

Checklist: How can I keep the costs of business insurance down?

Ensure you get and keep the best possible prices for your insurance cover. Login to save this checklist to your profile for future use - as you work through the list, any checkboxes that are ticked or unticked will be automatically saved to your profile. (Register to join and enjoy the benefits of membership, click on the link at the top right of the page. It will only take a few minutes to create your profile).

Next Steps

Find out more about Employers’ Liability Insurance here

In most cases, if you have someone working for you, the law requires you to have employers’ liability insurance. Here’s what you need to know about this type of insurance.

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