Does Employers Liability Cover Third-Party Actions?

Does Employers Liability Cover Third-Party Actions?

As an employer, under UK employment law, there are a few circumstances where you are required by law to have Employers Liability Insurance. These include:

  • You are a limited company with any employees.
  • You are a non-limited company and have employees who are not a part of your immediate family.

If you don't have cover when you should, you can be fined £2,500 for every day that you are inadequately insured. You can also be fined £1,000 if you fail to show your certificates when asked by an inspector.

However, there might be some areas you're not entirely clear on. For instance, what happens if your employee is injured at work but it is down to a third party?



What is the difference between Employers' Liability and Public Liability Insurance?

Employers' and Public Liability insurance covers similar risks; however, they are not interchangeable when it comes to who they cover.

Public Liability covers you against the financial risk of claims of injury, illness, property damages and even accidental death following the actions of you, or one of your employees, in connection with your business from a third party, such as a member of the public or a customer/client.

Employer's Liability also protects your business against claims from injury or illness, but this time it covers your employees as a result of their employment with your firm.

For example, an employee drills through a water pipe and causes damage to a ceiling below – this is Public Liability.   Your employee slips scaffolding and breaks both legs – this is employers liability.  

Why is Employers' Liability Insurance so important?

While there are many situations where a business or organisation might be asked to provide proof of their Public Liability certificates, there are no national laws forcing businesses to take out this cover.

However, since the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969, all UK employers that meet the requirements mentioned above have been required by law to hold valid and adequate Employers' Liability insurance for face fines.

Employers' Liability insurance means that any employee, regardless of who they work for, will get the compensation they deserve in the event they are injured at work.  

Employers liability is compulsory as the Government recognises that many firms would be unable to pay the significant compensation which can be due in the event of a significant workplace injury.

If you are a small business, this is also helpful as a large compensation claim could financially ruin your business or put you into debt you don't need. Employers' Liability cover levels the playing field when it comes to employee compensation.

Can an Employer be liable for the actions of a third-party?

As an employer, you have a responsibility to make sure your employees have a safe working environment.

Therefore, should your employee be injured by the actions of a third-party as part of them carrying out their work for you, you can still be held financially liable for these injuries by way of vicarious liability.


What about third-party-over-action?

Third-party-over-action refers to a situation in which an employee is injured and, after collecting compensation from you the employer, then makes a claim against a third-party for their part in the injury.

For example, third-party contractors are carrying out works on your premises when one of your employees trips on some wires that were camouflaged into the carpet. The employee falls down the stairs and breaks their collarbone.

While they make a claim against you as their employer, after collecting their compensation, they then file a claim against the contractor who owned the equipment they fell over.

This is something they may or may not win, but that's not what makes this third-party-over-action.

Due to a contractual agreement with the contractor that makes your business liable for all employee injuries, you are, in fact, still liable for that second claim and not the contractor. This is where the case becomes an "over-action" case.

Depending on the particulars of each situation, the claimant may get their case to court, which results in a whole new round of legal fees and potential compensation payouts should they be successful.

While these cases are usually unsuccessful, there are some cases where the employee is awarded more compensation, in which case your Employer's Liability cover will respond to that alongside the legal costs.


What if another employee or third-party assaults an employee?

Often if one employee assaults another, yes, you would actually be liable for any injuries sustained whether physical or mental.

Fortunately, compensation for this, should your employee seek it, is covered under your Employers' Liability insurance policy. However, protection for injuries sustained in an assault by a third-party is limited.

While to many, it might seem like an unlikely scenario, in 2019/2020, it is thought that 688,000 assaults happened in the workplace with 38% of those resulting in injuries. For more information on workplace violence, check out HSE's website.

Who's at risk of workplace violence?

Naturally, not all careers come with the same amount of risk as others. Coming in as number one most at risk are people in protective service occupations such as police officers.

It was found that those in a protective service occupation had a risk of assaults and threats six times higher than the national average.

Meanwhile, health and social care professionals also have a higher than average risk of assaults and threats than the national average.

Is third-party harassment covered?

In most cases, an employer is not liable for third-party harassment in the workplace unless you fail to protect your employee from third-party harassment out of your own discrimination of a protected characteristic.

Protected characteristics include:

  • age
  • gender reassignment
  • being married or in a civil partnership
  • being pregnant or on maternity leave
  • disability
  • race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

To find out more about your responsibilities around harassment and what this means, please visit the government website here.  

However, be aware, if your employee is experiencing harassment from a third-party, such as customers, to do with a protected characteristic, and you fail to do anything this can be seen as condoning the harassment.

For example, you run a pub, and a group of regulars continue to harass a member of staff with racial slurs. While you're aware of the situation, you fail to implement a zero-tolerance policy on harassment and allow them to carry on.

Your employee eventually files a complaint of distress which has led to mental illness.  

To ensure your business is fully protected against employee disputes, we would recommend you consider Management Liability Insurance as well as Employers Liability protection as this will assist you in a much wider range of employment issues, even where injury or illness may not be involved.  

For example sexual harassment or a contract dispute following redundancy or termination.  

How can Insync Help?

As a specialist business insurance broker, Insync can set you on the right path for Employers' Liability insurance.

Our team will work to understand the specific risks of your business to help you decide on the right level of Employers' liability cover that will both guarantee that you meet the legal requirement of employers' liability but ensure you also have the right indemnity limits for your business.