Insure your business: people, life and health
If you or an employee suffers an injury, illness or death, there could be serious financial consequences for you, your business or your staff.
Insurance can offer protection for the business itself to make up any shortfall in profits should the business lose a key employee. It can also be an important benefit for employees, helping you recruit and retain the right people. See insuring your business: loss of a key staff member.
This guide provides an overview of the different types of insurance and the ways in which different policies could benefit your business.
Identify potential business risks and insure against them
In order to decide on the type of insurance, first identify the risks facing your business and employees.
Certain types of insurance are compulsory for any business and some are required if your business is involved in a particular type of activity or way of operating.
Some of the most common types of required business insurance are:
- employers' liability - although you don't need this if you own the business and you're the sole employee
- motor insurance
Make sure that your liability insurance is fully up-to-date. If someone successfully claims personal injury compensation against you, the NHS can now recover charges for treatment - including ambulance costs.
Read the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) guide on Employer's liability (defective equipment and compulsory insurance) (Northern Ireland) order 1972.
Prepare your business
It's important to prepare your business to survive major disruption and to re-establish normal operations as soon as possible after a problem occurs. An effective health and safety policy can help prevent accidents, and a procedure for data backup will help you cope with a computer breakdown. But there will inevitably be events that are out of your control.
In these cases, you may find that having the right insurance cover can minimise disruption to your business. For example, you can buy insurance to help you cope with an unexpected change affecting one of your key employees - like illness, retirement or death. The types of insurance you might want to consider include:
- fidelity guarantee against loss as a result of staff dishonesty, eg theft
- professional indemnity insurance
- accident and sickness
- key personnel
- income protection
- critical illness
- private medical care
- loss of profits
Other types of insurance will insure your employees against personal risks. Consider cover for:
- group life
- personal accident
- permanent health
- private medical
You should also think about insuring the assets of your business - see insurance: business property and assets.
For more information on assessing risks in your business, see health and safety risk assessment.
Life and health insurance
Life insurance - also called life assurance - pays out either a lump sum or a regular income on the death of the person insured. Cover can often be obtained at a modest cost yet it provides a valuable benefit.
Critical illness cover is available alone or combined with life insurance. It provides cover against being diagnosed with a serious disease, such as cancer, even though the insured person might be able to work. Cover is more expensive than straightforward life insurance.
Income protection policies - also known as Permanent Health Insurance - pay a regular income to someone suffering a loss of income through being unable to work due to illness or injury. In certain cases or more manual occupations, it can occasionally be difficult to get cover.
Private medical insurance covers the cost of private medical treatment for acute conditions. It allows the insured person to receive treatment more quickly, or at a time of their choosing - so can minimise the disruption to a business. There are different sorts of policies, from low cost with limited cover to those offering wide-ranging cover and benefits. These can be tailored to the needs of the business.
All of these types of insurance can be bought for individuals, or groups of individuals, and can be used in a variety of ways to provide useful and often essential cover to meet many needs.
Appropriate use and application of life insurance products can be complicated, so seek advice from an independent financial adviser (IFA). Find an IFA on unbiased.co.uk .
If you choose to deal directly with an insurer, it's worthwhile checking that they are a member of the Association of British Insurers (ABI) - check that an insurer is a member of the ABI.
Insuring your business: loss of a key staff member
If your business relies heavily on one or two members of staff, there can be serious consequences for the business if they become ill or die. Small businesses in particular often depend on a key person for generating sales, managing a vital client or providing specific expertise.
You can take out a policy, often called key person insurance, that makes a payout to the business should that person die or, with critical illness insurance, be diagnosed with a serious disease. The amount of money paid out is usually set in advance at a level estimated to be the potential financial loss to the business.
Talk to an independent financial adviser (IFA) to find out whether key person insurance is appropriate for your business - you can find an IFA with unbiased.co.uk.
Insurance protection for the self-employed
If you are self-employed, or you own a small business, it is very important that you carefully consider buying the right protection for your own personal needs.
Life and critical illness insurance
Life insurance - also called 'life assurance' - and critical illness insurance will pay out a lump sum on your death or the diagnosis of certain specified serious illnesses. Depending on your age, sex and health, this can be inexpensive yet valuable cover.
There are also different types of insurance designed to pay a regular income if you are unable to work because of illness or injury.
The benefit is agreed when you take out the policy. It is usually paid weekly or monthly and is subject to a maximum of two-thirds of your normal earned income, though it can be far lower.
The benefit is only paid while you are unable to work and continues for a limited period, often one or two years. Income protection insurance and personal accident and sickness insurance are both common names for policies of this type.
The terms and costs vary widely. Get advice from your independent financial adviser to make sure you choose a policy that's right for you.
Private medical insurance
Private medical insurance covers the cost of private medical treatment for acute conditions. It allows you to get treatment more quickly, or at a time of your choosing- so minimises the disruption to your business. There are different sorts of policies - from low cost with limited cover to those offering wide-ranging cover and benefits. These can be tailored to your needs.
Seek independent financial advice to make sure you get the right policies and a suitable level of cover.
Insurance as an employee benefit
Life and health insurance is a valuable benefit to offer your employees. It can often be easy and relatively cheap to provide, and can play a major role in helping you attract and retain good quality staff.
It is possible to buy life insurance for employees individually, but more commonly businesses take out life insurance for a whole group of employees. This is called group life insurance and can be arranged alone, though it is also often found linked to a pension arrangement.
A group life insurance scheme might include all employees who have been working in the business longer than a certain period, such as six months.
Usually, the lump sum insured for each employee is a multiple of their wage or annual salary, and is tax free as long as it isn't more than the pension holder's available lifetime allowance. Employers might also set age conditions, eg insuring only employees over 18 and under 65.
It is also possible to buy critical illness cover for your employees, though this is less common, and is usually combined with a life insurance arrangement.
There is a range of other types of insurance available for your employees. The need to provide these benefits may depend on your need to compete with other businesses for the best employees.
Other types of insurance sometimes offered as employee benefits include:
- private medical insurance - pays for the treatment of agreed acute conditions
- income protection - pays regular income to employees who are unable to work because of illness or injury
Bear in mind that your employees will pay tax on some benefits, depending on what they earn per year. Your accountant or benefits adviser will be able to tell you which employee benefits are taxable.