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Whether you're a cafe owner with a staff of 5 people (including your coffee machine) or a small construction firm with a whole office for 20, getting the right business insurance cover is super important. You never know when things could go wrong, so it's better to be safe than sorry.

So where do I start?

As a small business owner you're probably new to this whole business insurance thing. You may not feel that it makes sense, but that's why we're here. This guide will walk you through how business insurance works and how to protect your beloved asset.

What is business insurance and why do I need it?

Accidents can happen and any business runs the risk of losing its reputation, cash flow and ability to survive if disaster strikes. On top of all that, you could even have to dig into your own personal finances.

Let's say you're a plumber and you incorrectly fix a pipe for a restaurant which forces it to stop operating for a month. You could be forced to pay out what the restaurant would have earned in that time – all because of a genuine mistake.

This is why business insurance exists. It's protection for a range of things like getting sued and much more.

Types of risks businesses could face

Injuring someone

You're a retail owner and someone slips on your premise.

Damaging someone's property

You own a car wash and one of your employees spills chemical into a car's interior.

Getting sued for a faulty product

You accidentally sell fruit which is contaminated and your customers get sick.

Giving incorrect advice or service

You're an architect and you provide a client with a flawed design that needs to be fixed after the building has already been built.

Financial penalties for mismanagement

You could be penalised for breaching occupational health and safety regulations.

Business-specific accidents and damages

Some businesses will need to cover against theft, while others will be concerned about natural disasters like fire.

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Tailored made cover with a wide range of additional options to choose from. Up to $20 million in liability cover and choice of excess.
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What's covered by business insurance?

It doesn’t matter if you’re running a small retail store employing 5 people or a huge architecture firm employing 50, there are risks involved. The right insurance could save you thousands in unforeseen legal fees or compensation claims.

The main types of business insurance

Specific types of business insurance

What type do you need?

Make sure you cross these off your list. We’ve made a table to help you determine which of the three main types of business insurance you may need:

If your business...You run the risk of...Insurance can help with...
Product liability insurance
  • Designs, produces or manufactures a physical product (eg, assembly, design firm or takeaway food)
  • Supplies or installs a physical product (eg, electrician, online distributor or retailer)
  • Your product causing damage or loss to people or property
  • Your product failing to fulfil a promise or responsibility
  • Claims of faulty installation
  • Court & legal fees
  • Compensation & damages costs
Public liability insurance
  • Has publicly accessible premises (eg, supermarket, dentist or restaurant)
  • Performs services in public spaces (eg, road workers, personal trainers or event organizers)
  • People injuring themselves on your premises
  • Property being damaged or stolen
  • Claims of negligence or dereliction of duty leading to financial loss
  • Court & legal fees
  • Property damage and loss costs
  • First aid expenses
  • Advertising liabilities
Professional indemnity insurance
  • Gives advice (eg, consulting or medical)
  • Provides a service (eg, building surveyor or IT professional)
  • Claims of incorrect, misleading or damaging advice
  • Accusations of poor or fraudulent service
  • Court & legal fees
  • Public relations fees to protect your reputation
  • Cost of investigation into the claim
  • Compensation & damages costs

In addition to the basic insurance detailed above, there are a number of options available to deal with your specific needs.

These are covered in much greater detail further down, but here are a few examples:

  • Fire and theft cover. If your business is especially susceptible to loss by theft or fire, such as a private theatre or a retail outlet, this can help cover the costs of restoring the building and replacing whatever was damaged or stolen.
  • Management liability. This can protect you from claims arising from your alleged mismanagement of the company, rather than any direct fault of a product or service. These claims often affect your personal wealth as well as that of the business.
  • Construction insurance. This is public liability specifically for situations where you’re building, renovating or extending a home and covers on-site accidents, vandalism and damage from natural disasters.
  • Cyber liability insurance. Cyber risk is a rapidly increasing problem for businesses. If you have any digital assets, such as online finances or confidential data, or you use digital devices heavily for your business, this can help.

How much will business insurance actually cost?

We looked at professional indemnity insurance as well as public liability insurance and found the following average costs across both:

Factors that affect cost

Like most insurance quotes, it depends on circumstance. The amount you pay for cover depends on what type of business you’re running, how many people you employ and what sort of extra risks you run. Chances are if you’re running a light team of four or five librarians, your insurance will cost less than if you have fifty architects planning homes across the country.

What can I do to reduce how much I pay for cover?

The following are some key steps you can take to avoid overpaying for cover you don't actually need:

  • Increase your excess. Like most insurance policies, raising what you pay in case of a claim can drive down your ongoing premium costs.
  • Bundle up. Taking out all your policies with a single company can net you a handy discount.
  • Skip useless extras. If you don’t need it, don’t pay for it! An insurance broker can help you figure out what’s likely to matter for your business and skip the rest.

Is business insurance worth it? Consider the following scenarios

You’ve worked hard to get where you are. Maybe you built your business from the ground up or you’ve taken it and turned it into something to be proud of. So why risk it? No matter how careful you are, accidents happen, mistakes get made and people file complaints out of anger or spite. Without insurance, one bad situation can put you out of business for good.

What would you do if someone got really sick or a worker was injured on your site? How would you cope if a flood ruined your building or a thief made off with thousands of dollars of stock or private data? These are important questions you'll need to answer.

Here are a few situations where business insurance just might save you:

You’re running a small medical practice

A patient who sought advice from one of your doctors concerning a medical procedure files a legal complaint against you when the procedure goes poorly. Even though the doctor’s advice was sound and the procedure was botched by someone else, you’d still have to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees to settle it, which insurance would cover.


You own a restaurant

In the course of an evening, one of your waiters trips and spills boiling hot soup on a customer. Business insurance can help you with recompense for the injured person and cover any possible legal fees that you otherwise could face.


You’re the owner of a retail outlet that sells expensive jewellery

Despite the extensive security measures you’ve wisely invested in, a thief manages to break in and get away with thousands of dollars of stock. Without business insurance, you’d either have to accept the loss of whatever unique and pricey pieces the thief got away with or pay to replace it out of your own pocket.

How do I find the best business insurance

When shopping around for insurance, you need to know what you want in order to get the best deal. Here are some simple checks to consider when browsing:

1. Figure out your business risks

Every business is different. Depending on how your business works, you’ll naturally have different risks. Determine the most likely issues to come up and which would be most damaging without insurance. If you have employees, what would happen if they were dishonest or got injured? Do you have a product or service people might be unhappy with? How vulnerable are you to theft or disasters?

2. Compare policies that cover your risk

Once you’ve figured out the risks, you can pick a policy. You might need one of the three main kinds of business insurance or some combination of them. Figure out what special circumstances apply to your business. Are you building homes or moving merchandise? This determines which extras you may need.

3. Picked a policy? Now look at what you are covered for exactly

Ensure you understand the policy you’re taking out. Are you covered for the worst situations? Is your insurance limit high enough to cover your most valuable assets if they get damaged or stolen?

4. Check what's not covered

This is almost more important than what you are covered for. Every insurer places caveats on claims. These are situations and circumstances where they won’t acknowledge a claim. Investigate these carefully before taking out a policy. We’ve listed some of the most common in the “Exceptions” section below.

5. Consider an insurance broker

Using an insurance broker to choose the best policy for you can save you money overall. Finding the perfect policy can take a long time and can cause a ton of stress. Even after all this, you might end up with an inadequate or an over-the-top policy. Insurance brokers can walk you through the process, assess the biggest risks your business is likely to face and choose the best policy for you.

Types of business insurance in Australia

What types of business insurance are there?

There are a number of different types of cover available on the Australian market. Most can be either purchased separately or bundled together for both convenience and savings. The following are the main types of business insurance:

Professional indemnity insurance

When trained workers or businesses charge a fee for advice, those clients rely on the advice they receive being accurate and correct. In some cases, a client may launch legal action against you if they believe that a negligent act or a breach of professional duty has caused them to suffer a financial loss.

Public liability insurance

Running a business means there are risks of damaging and injuring third parties. The cost of compensation can severely impact the livelihood of your business, and this is where pubic liability insurance comes in.

Product liability insurance

If your business provides products, you could be at risk of damages and liabilities that occur from these products themselves.

Management liability insurance

Running a company can also have risks that come from mismanagement. Poor management can result in litigation coming both internally or even externally. This is where management liability insurance comes in.

Voluntary workers cover

Voluntary workers perform crucial roles for many organisations. Sometimes voluntary workers can suffer injuries while performing duties for your business, and as they are not employees, they are not covered by workers compensation. Despite this, only a small percentage of businesses actually have insurance cover in place to help out volunteers in these situations.

Construction insurance

Sometimes referred to as construction risk insurance, this type of cover protects your business against a range of issues and events that may arise during construction, alterations, testing and defects liability periods after construction has been completed. This type of insurance is usually required since standard public and products liability insurance generally exclude construction activities.

Cyber liability insurance

As many businesses now conduct operations electronically or rely on a technological component, many companies face significant risks if their computer systems were to be hacked in any way. For example, private and confidential information about clients could be accessed or even destroyed, which could potentially be very damaging for any business.

Options you can typically add

There’s a lot of choice when it comes to business insurance.

Income protection

This is generally not included in standard business insurance policies. However, it can be a consideration for businesses who wish to provide benefits to its employees.

Small business insurance

Run a small business? Here's why cover is essential

If you run a small business, you likely don’t have to worry about many of the same problems that a much larger business would face. But this doesn’t mean that you’re home free. Small businesses have a number of unique risks that a larger company doesn’t.

These can include the following:

  • Small customer pool. How many customers make up the bulk of your business? If one of your regular customers stopped using your services for any length of time, it could lead to a catastrophic drop in revenue.
  • Few suppliers. How many suppliers do you generally rely upon? If one of your suppliers stopped supplying you, it could severely slow down business or bring it to a grinding halt.
  • Employee issues. These are wide-ranging and can include staff seeing your business as temporary employment on their way to another job, leading to high turnover rates. You may have a few employees who are crucial to your business leave and throw things into chaos. It’s even possible that employees who are necessarily given a lot of freedom in running important parts of your business abuse your trust and commit fraud.
  • Limited premises. Small businesses are frequently tied to one location that is vital for their operation. What would happen if a storm or fire heavily damaged the premises or the business outgrew the location? This could cause dangerous and expensive disruptions.
  • Reputation. Many small businesses live and die by their reputation in a community or industry. How would you cope if your company were accused of fraud or dishonesty?
  • Cyber risk. Disruptions to power, Internet access or machine function can completely shut down a business’s trading capability. A virus ruining your computers or a power outage can have very expensive consequences.
  • Small financial overhead. If you trade on credit, it’s possible you may be called to account. What would you do in that situation? What if competitors were to appear in your market and disrupt your finances with similar services and lower prices?

Case study: Fire cover at play

A local florist in Bundaberg Queensland sustained substantial damage after a fire in an industrial bin in the rear car park spread into the back storeroom. The fire was extinguished before spreading through the entire shop but not before causing $90,000 worth of damage

The florist had only been open for eight months but the owners had taken out a Small Business Pack with Allianz shortly after they opened the business.

Under the business interruption cover of the policy, the couple were eligible to claim for the damage and receive the full benefit amount to cover the repair costs.

When won't I be covered?

Like any insurance policy, it’s equally important to know when you won’t be covered. You can avoid losing out by checking the exact details of your policy, but there are a few that most policies won’t cover. You’ll probably lose out if your claim involves the following:

  • War, rebellion or insurrection
  • Government-approved confiscation, requisition or destruction of your property
  • Radioactivity
  • A company you acquired after taking out business insurance or any assets related to that company
  • Unoccupied buildings or premises
  • Damage to buildings by lightning, earthquakes or impact by road vehicles or falling buildings
  • An electronic device or software that isn’t Electronic Date Compliant
  • Aggravated or punitive damages or fines
  • Obsolete equipment that is no longer used in the business

More information about business insurance

So does business insurance cover loss of income?

Under business interruption insurance, a business will be covered for loss of revenue that it suffers following an unforeseen event. This means that while the business is being repaired, cash will be provided to account for the loss of revenue but not for personal income.

This typically includes the following:

  • Profits that would have been earned based on the previous financial statements
  • Rent of a temporary location while repairs are being made. This may include advertising costs to let customers know the new location
  • Staff wages while the business is temporarily closed
  • Additional expenses that ensure the business is able to continue to operate while repairs are made
  • Fixed costs that still have to be covered on previous property that is under repair

The benefit will be paid until the end of the business interruption period, which is determined at the time of application. This is known as the indemnity period.

How long should my indemnity period be?

This will differ from business to business, so you will need to take the time to assess the risks that face your business and how long they could take to recover from. As an example, insurer CGU reportedly had a customer that was only able to recommence operating after a period of 18 months after the business was consumed by a fire.

Can I claim my business insurance on my taxes?

According to the ATO, you can claim tax deductions for most costs that are incurred in the running of your business. However, there are exceptions to this. You are not able to claim for private or domestic expenses.

Insurance premiums are deductible if they have a necessary connection with earning an assessable income. Premiums are deductible for the following types of insurance:

  • Workers compensation insurance
  • Professional indemnity insurance
  • Income protection insurance

  • Public liability insurance
  • Fire and theft cover

The expenses that you are eligible to claim will depend on the structure of your business, whether you hold and sell trading stock and the nature of your income and expenses. If you are unsure whether you are eligible to claim your insurance premiums, check with a tax professional.

Can I claim tax on key person insurance?

Premiums for key person insurance may be tax deductible if the policy was taken out for revenue purposes (ie, to protect revenue generated by the business).

Premiums for key person insurance taken out to cover capital losses are not tax deductible. This includes a benefit payment to a worker's estate following his or her death.

I already have insurance, but I think it's in need of a review. What can I do?

Have cover in place but not sure if there may be something more suitable out there? Here are some steps to review existing cover:

  • Assess how your business has changed in the last 12 months. Has your number of staff grown or decreased? Have you obtained new assets?
  • Cut cover you don't need. Do you have cover in place that is no longer relevant to the risks your business has? Can these be trimmed back?
  • Add cover for any new risks your business is now facing. Do you face new risk events that could cause a loss of revenue?

Is it worth using a broker to help me find cover?

  • Business insurance can be complex. There is a wealth of business insurance policies available on the market, each of which has been designed to meet a specific need. Determining the right type and level of cover for your business can be quite a difficult task, so it pays to have help.
  • Brokers are experts. Business insurance brokers have a wealth of experience and an in-depth understanding of the business insurance market. They know which policies are available and which ones will be right for you.
  • Brokers work for you. Just like your accountant works in your best financial interests, it’s the job of a broker to do everything they can to get you a suitable insurance deal.
  • Brokers know your business. A good business insurance broker will take the time to understand the ins and outs of your business. This will give them the information they need to formulate a reliable insurance strategy that matches all your needs.
  • Brokers know the market. A business insurance broker knows exactly what policies are available on the Australian market. They can hook you up with policies and insurers that you may be unaware of if you were simply trying to arrange cover yourself.
  • There are specialist brokers available. You may be able to find an insurance broker who specialises in finding cover for businesses in your industry. This ensures that they will have an even greater knowledge and understanding of the risks facing your company.

Receive a business insurance quote

Some additional guides that might interest you

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CTP business insurance: What is it?

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Choosing the right commercial car insurance

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Still not sure? Some final questions you might have

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10 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    JaimieAugust 16, 2017

    Hi i am a snake handler and remove snakes from private residence’s . Would you be able to give me some prices on public liability insurance.

    • Staff
      MayAugust 16, 2017Staff

      Hi Jaime,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      The cost or premium of a public liability insurance would depend on some factors including but not limited to the nature, size, and location of your business. Insurers would also assess any potential risks associated with outsiders who use the premises when considering the cost. So if you’d like to get and compare the quotes for public liability insurance from different brands, you can fill out the form found on this page. From that page, you can also get more details on what are and aren’t covered by public liability insurance and more.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      May

  2. Default Gravatar
    KevJanuary 23, 2017

    Who has the cheapest public liability insurance for market store insurance of $20,000,000

    • Staff
      RichardJanuary 24, 2017Staff

      Hi Kev,

      Thanks for getting in touch. finder.com.au is a comparison service and we do not currently have the facilities in place to be able to provide online quotes at this time. If you would like to get a quote from an adviser, you can do so by entering your contact details into the form above.

      All the best,
      Richard

  3. Default Gravatar
    JaymzDecember 8, 2016

    Hi, I have few q’s on public liability can some one get back to me please. Thank you.

    • Staff
      RichardDecember 9, 2016Staff

      Hi Jaymz,

      Thanks for getting in touch. If you would like to speak with and adviser and receive a quote for public liability insurance, please complete the contact form above.

      Cheers,
      Richard

  4. Default Gravatar
    PeterNovember 11, 2016

    Please advise what insurer cover Market stall insurance, Public liability insurance, regarding Childrens temporary airbrush tattoos (non-invasive)

    • Staff
      RichardNovember 14, 2016Staff

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for getting in touch. finder.com.au is a comparison service and can’t provide personalised financial advice. If you like to speak with an adviser, please complete the form above and someone will be in touch.

      All the best,
      Richard

  5. Default Gravatar
    KirstieOctober 7, 2016

    I would like to obtain a quote for workers compensation insurance for a personal training business that employs 1 staff member with an annual turnover of $50,000 located in Canberra.

    • Staff
      MauriceOctober 7, 2016Staff

      Hi Kristie,

      You’ve come to the comparison service finder.com.au – we are not an insurer.

      If you’d like to obtain a quote with an adviser simply fill out the form at the top of the page. For industry, you can select personal and other services.

      I hope this helps,

      Maurice

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