Everything you need to know about liability insurance for businesses & individuals working with children
It is generally acknowledged that tradesmen, particularly those operating in the construction field, are the highest public liability risk sector, due to the dangerous nature of the work they carry out in terms of both people and property.
Yet businesses, and self employed individuals, who work with children, on a permanent, regular or intermittent basis, also rank very highly amongst the hierarchy of those most likely to encounter compensation claims.
Businesses and sole traders who are responsible for looking after children, and those who services are targeted towards the child market, have broad and emotive responsibilities resting on their shoulders.
This is not to incorrectly suggest that the health and safety of adults should be taken less seriously, or that homes and possessions do not deserve due respect.
However, anyone who has experience of working with children can testify that the ability to expect the unexpected should never be undervalued.
As children lack adult sensibilities, every aspect of their care, health and safety lies firmly and solely in the hands of the people working with them. The unpredictability of children dictates that the extent and volume of potential accidents and injuries that can befall them is infinite. Yet whilst the safety of children is ultimately of primary concern, there are further considerations for people working with children.
Little ones at large also have the potential to cause damage to the property and possessions of the people looking after them, plus the property and possessions of unlucky innocent bystanders, who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Such mishaps can occur to a child minder taking a youngster on a shopping trip, or a bouncy castle business providing services at a party venue, as random examples.
Liability cover provides business people working with children with a financial safety net that covers them against claims for accidents, damages, injuries and illnesses that befall children in their care.
Hundreds of thousands of credible and reputable businesses across the UK might balk at the suggestion of negligence in relation to the expert quality of service they take pride in.
However, these businesses should know better than anyone else that the list of potential mishaps that can occur when working with children is impossible to exhaust.
Whilst a public liability policy insures businesses against financial penalties caused by successful compensation claims against them, it does not and cannot prevent accidents from happening.
Therefore, it offers peace of mind to businesses that work with the most unpredictable customer base on the planet. Furthermore, it offers them the opportunity to be recompensed for any damages caused to their own property and possessions by children in their care.
If your business involves looking after and engaging with children, this all probably sounds rather close to home. If you have yet to secure public liability cover, or you are unsure that your existing liability insurance is fit for purpose, you are in the right place. Read on…
What specific types of child oriented business need liability cover?
First off, you should bear in mind that you are not vilified in to taking out a public liability policy due to the nature of your work with the child demographic. Every business, from an office set up, to a café, to a factory, needs public liability cover.
Many of their liability insurance requirements are identical to yours, and revolve around the core concerns of cover against accidents, injuries, illnesses and damages. Dependent upon the individual nature of their businesses, many sign up to additional elements that befit their own circumstances. It is exactly the same for you.
Bear in mind also that the culture of placing blame and making claims for accidents and damages that can be attributed to businesses – by employees, by customers, by members of the public, by literally anyone who cross paths with you whilst you carry out your work – has never been as dominant as it is today.
You operate in a risky sector, and are entrusted with the care of other people’s children. If you haven’t yet experienced an insurance claim against you for accidents or damages, there are no guarantees that it won’t be your turn next week, next month, or next year.
Therefore, it makes perfect sense that comprehensive liability cover, for all of the threats that potentially face your business, offers you maximum financial protection.
If your work includes the everyday care of children, such as looking after them at their premises or yours, accompanying them in the public domain, providing them with refreshments, and generally taking on the role of guardian, you need a public liability policy that protects you against anything from a minor mishap to a major disaster.
Businesses and occupations that automatically spring to mind include:-
- Child minders
- Nursery owners
- Home tutors
You might make your living from the provision of other types of children’s services, involving direct engagement with children on a regular basis, such as:-
- Children’s party planners
- Bouncy castle providers
- Face painters
These examples are far from exhaustive, but they do represent a definitive cross section of businesses and occupations that evolve and prosper as a result of successful engagement with children. Resultantly, claims that are upheld against you for accidents or damages whilst going about your businesses are capable of causing irreparable financial devastation if you lack appropriate levels of liability cover.
How can businesses and individuals working with children evaluate their liability insurance needs?
Once again, you must not feel that you are on your own when deciding exactly what aspects of liability cover offer you the protection you specifically need.
You are not – every other business in every other sector goes through the same process.
In order to understand exactly what sort of public liability policy offers you the most befitting cover to fit the nature of your game, it’s as good a starting point as any to think about your entire business, and the environments in which you operate, as danger zones.
Risk assessment, risk assessment, and even more risk assessment…
Accidents & Injuries
If you provide child minding, nannying, or home tutoring services, chances are that you carry out your work at their place or yours. If you are the owner of a nursery, parents entrust the care of their youngsters to you at your business premises. However, if you are a kiddies’ party planner, an entertainer, a face painter or you hire out bouncy castles, you might be required to provide your services at family homes, in public places, or at private event venues.
Now, carefully consider the variety and volume of accidents that a child or children in your care might suffer in each of these environments. It can be difficult to know where to start. At ‘entry level’ you might be thinking about the very minor end of the scale, such as trips over lamp wires, bumps and knocks against sharp table corners, or slips down small sets of stairs or steps.
At the opposite end of the scale, you may be progressing to the realms of a child being the victim of a serious accident on a busy main road outside a party venue, or breaking its neck when stumbling off a bouncy castle on to a concrete surface.
Whilst thinking about the never ending number of accidents that might potentially befall the children in your care, you also need to take your own staff in to consideration. They are equally as at risk as the little ones you work with of suffering an accident which might be blamed on you.
It is irrelevant whether they are full time, part time, temporary, or sub-contractors. Their safety is your responsibility, at your own workplace, and any other place at which they are asked to provide their services on your behalf.
Staff or sub-contractor accidents might be as minor as a nasty fall on an icy patch at the entrance of your premises that you have failed to grit – or as major as a serious electric shock to a performer at a children’s party from a malfunctioning microphone you have provided.
Exactly the same principles apply with members of the public, where the story really began, hence the phrase ‘public liability cover’. Should you be on a shopping trip with a child, and fail to have a toy under control that an innocent passer-by trips over, claims can and do ensue from such incidents that are so unforeseen and unintentional.
Many businesses like yours that involve working with children – and those that do not – generally perceive the risk of potential claims for accidents, injuries, and damages to be greater than illnesses. Yet your are probably aware of the cases that still grab the headlines to the present date brought by workers suffering serious asbestos related diseases as a result of employer negligence.
A major culprit is food, literally providing food for thought for child minders, nannies, nursery owners, and children’s party planners who provide meals and refreshments to satisfy small appetites. Should children suffer from upset stomachs, sickness, diarrhea, or food poisoning that can be traced directly back to food provided by you, compensation claims may rapidly follow.
Prescription and non-prescription medication represent further serious causes for concern. If you are required by parents to administer prescription medication to their children, you need to be 100% confident of your unflagging ability to do so, in the correct dosages, at the right times.
You should also exercise extreme caution when considering the administration of off the shelf medication for non-serious childhood ailments without parental consent. In either scenario, an unintentional step in the wrong direction can be detrimental to children’s health – and consequently cost you in compensation pay outs.
You should also think long and hard about your tools of the trade. What apparatus and equipment do you use to do your job, and what materials are they made of? Could they provoke allergic reactions in children? Face paints, for example, might cause children’s skin to react adversely, causing severe irritation, even permanent disfigurement.
When you or a member of your team is charged with looking after children at their family homes, you need to ensure that due respect is given to your customers’ property and possessions. Minor accidents happen in any and every environment imaginable, and it is highly unlikely that you would find yourself faced with a compensation claim for dropping and breaking a coffee mug.
However, dependent upon the specific nature of the damages, and the manner in which they are caused, families may be well within their rights to hold you directly responsible in terms of financial recompense.
Identical considerations are called for when you or a team member accompany a child or a group of children to any public place – on the street, in a shop, in the park, at a party venue, literally anywhere, indoors or outdoors, that is accessible to the public. Children have the nasty habit of doing things that and your team might never anticipate, at the most unexpected moments.
They might have be upset and ‘throw their rattle out of the pram’, resulting in damages to a product display in a shop. Or they might vandalise a venue that has been hired for a children’s party – not with malicious intent, but simply because they are children.
For that very reason, you might be able to skillfully talk yourself out of unpleasant situations with sufficient amounts of apologising and grovelling. Yet many disgruntled businesses owners and members of the public refuse to be swayed when they face financial loss in order to put wrongs right that are simply not their fault. Those who are intent on not being out of pocket certainly won’t sue the child – they will come after your business or you personally.
What ‘must have’ liability cover is available to insure against the risks identified?
Just like any other business type, employers liability cover is the only policy that you are legally obliged to purchase if you employ anyone at all other than yourself. Otherwise, a public liability policy, and the extent to which you decide to protect your business financially, is down to your own common sense and mitigation of the potential risks associated with the way you generate your livelihood.
What you also have in common with every other UK business is that the public liability cover you choose to secure represents either £2million or £10million worth of indemnity. This refers to the amount of money that your insurer may pay out on your behalf for any claims made against you that are awarded in favour of complainants.
Dependent upon the individual nature of your business you might automatically plump for employers liability as a legal requirement, plus public liability insurance, thus covering yourself against accidents, injuries, illnesses and damages suffered by your employees or any other third parties.
These two aspects of liability cover offer adequate safety nets for numerous businesses, whilst many others add further optional extras that befit their specific needs. If you are self employed without exception, you don’t have to worry about employers liability, although you might well opt for a standard public liability policy, plus additional coverage.
So, starting off with the cornerstones of public liability cover for businesses and individuals working with children:-
Public liability insurance is the lynchpin of liability cover that works perfectly well on a stand alone basis for many businesses, or forms the solid foundation of more comprehensive policies for other businesses. Should a child in your care, a member of the public, a supplier or any other third party suffer accidents, injuries, illnesses or damages for which you are ultimately held responsible, your public liability policy is worth its weight in gold.
Employers cover offers you exactly the same insurance protection as your public liability cover, but in terms of your staff, regardless of how casual or temporary, rather than your customers and other individuals.
What additional insurance is it advisable for businesses and individuals working with children to consider?
After having successfully carried out a comprehensive risk assessment of every aspect of your modus operandi, you should be in a forearmed position to automatically select any supplementary insurance you need. However, if your risk assessment is not as stringent as it should be, or if you are unsure about how to satisfactorily process your risk potential, additional cover that you may need, but have not even thought about, should be readily apparent when you are presented with further policy add-ons:-
Commercial Vehicle Insurance
If you regularly use your own car to ferry the children in your care back and forth, on the school run, on errands, and on outings, it might be wise for you to consider your vehicle as part and parcel of your business.
The same applies to most businesses involved in children’s entertainment, whose ability to fulfill their roles involves travel to party venues, and the transportation of bouncy castles or other job related equipment.
You most certainly need to do so if your business owns a mini bus or a van for the transportation of the children in your care. Should you have a road accident, or your vehicle becomes damaged as a result of your work, your commercial vehicle insurance offers you an invaluable financial recompense opportunity.
Equipment & Stock in Transit
Whilst commercial vehicle insurance does pretty much what it suggests on it tin, it does not offer insurance cover for business related items that are in vehicles. Organisers of children’s parties, entertainers, face painters, and bouncy castle hire companies, but to name a few, are rendered unable to fulfill their obligations to their customers if the tools of their trade become damaged, lost or are stolen whilst in their vehicles.
Therefore, like commercial vehicle insurance, policy cover for equipment and stock in transit offers you the opportunity to make financial claims when you are unexpectedly rendered unable to do your job.
Party planners who specialise in the kiddies sector might not consider themselves in the same league of event organisation as those that arrange and deliver major festivals, or even company dinner dances. Yet, when it comes to the potential risks that threaten each an every organised event, they have more in common with event managers in other sectors than they might initially suspect.
The FA Cup Final or Glastonbury your events may not be, yet you should still think very carefully about the risks your parties present – not only to the children attending them, but also to the venues and the entertainment suppliers you have contractual obligations to.
You might feel certain that your humble children’s party planning business has no need to think along the same lines as the ‘big league’. In the case of some of the coverage offered by event insurance, you might be right, but just ask yourself how able you are to genuinely financially shoulder some of the unforeseen situations that every event has the potential to suffer:-
- Bad weather related cancellation or disruption
- Loss or theft of door or ticket money
- Financial obligations to venues and suppliers for last minute cancellation or reduced number of guests
- Financial obligations to customers for last minute cancellations or enforced reduction of number of guests by venues
- Unexpected non-attendance of key entertainers and suppliers
- Technical fault disruption
- Threats of terrorism
When you think about it logically and objectively, the potential risks associated with party planning are as inexhaustible as those associated with working with children. As you are responsible for both, you might err on the side of caution and take a look with a fresh pair of eyes at the insurance cover on offer to event organisers who arrange children’s parties regularly, or on a more intermittent basis.
You are well advised to jump at the opportunity to take up product liability if you are a children’s face painter, as you run similar specific risks that professionals in the hair, beauty and cosmetic surgery sectors do. With that in mind, product liability becomes fairly self explanatory.
It protects you financially if parents instigate a claim against you for personal injuries or illnesses, or damages to property and possessions, as a result of the products you use on their children.
In a nutshell…
There is nothing more precious to human beings than their offspring. Whether you are a business owner or a self employed sole trader, when parents entrust you to look after their children, they expect you to do so in the same dedicated way that you would after your own children.
Any failure on your part to provide this duty of care to the letter – accidentally or through genuine negligence – can result in parents understandably coming down on you as hard as they possibly can. If they cannot pursue you criminally, they will seek to pursue you financially in order to hit you where it hurts most.
However, you also have to bear in mind that your duty of care extends beyond that which you owe to other people’s children. It also applies to the health, safety, property and possessions of your staff, the general public, and the many different suppliers whose services you engage.
Rather than looking upon public liability cover and other extended types of insurance cover as bugbears, designed to scaremonger you in to parting with your earnings, think of it as a dual form of financial protection:-
- That covers you in cases of claims for accidents, injuries, illnesses and damages beyond your control or that you failed to prevent.
- That offers you recompense for much of the same, plus losses and thefts, that you unexpectedly fall victim to, and which threaten your immediate and future prosperity.