It is always a good idea to check that your employer holds all the compulsory insurances required by law and current employers’ liability insurance, to ensure you are protected should you have an accident at work. The law requires certificates of insurance to be displayed in hardcopy or electronically – if they are not, employers can be fined.
Typically, employers who avoid their insurance responsibilities are often small and poorly organised with few assets worth chasing in an injury claim. Some limited companies even choose to declare bankruptcy rather than pay the compensation that may be due to genuine injury claimants.
By law, every non-exempt employer in the UK is required to insure their company against liability for bodily injury or disease that may be sustained by their employees in the course of their employment, although many small family businesses and public organisations, including National Health Service bodies and local authorities, are exempt.
Unlike claims for road traffic accidents, for which the Motor Insurers Bureau may be called on to pay out to victims of uninsured drivers, there is no such safety net for employees claiming against uninsured employers.
When representing an employee who has sustained injuries because of employer negligence, it can prove difficult to trace whether or not the relevant insurances are in place, especially if the employer declines to cooperate. In such cases it may be helpful to report the situation to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to force your employer to produce their insurance certificates but, even so, they may not choose to share the policy information openly.
Your solicitor may then consider making a freedom of information request, following which the HSE’s Freedom of Information team may disclose the employer’s insurance certificate if they consider the request has been properly made, but it is worth bearing in mind that the policy shown to the authorities may not have been valid at the time of the accident.
All employers should be happy to show their employees their relevant insurance certification. Hopefully you will never need this paperwork but, if you are injured in a workplace accident that was not your fault, you will then be in a good position to instruct a solicitor to make a claim on your behalf.
Claire Watson. Partner & Head of Personal Injury
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