Whether you're a sole trader with one employee (you) or run a construction site with 20 employees, getting the right insurance cover is crucial for every small business. You never know when things might go wrong, so it's better to be safe than sorry.
So where do I start?
Business insurance doesn't have to be confusing and difficult. Business Insurance Finder™ offers tools and guides to explain how it works and help you save money on cover.
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
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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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 type of insurance could save you thousands in unforeseen legal fees or compensation claims.
The main types of business insurance
Professional indemnity insurance
This covers you from negligence if you provide advice or a service.
Product liability insurance
This covers you from third-party injuries or damages caused by products your business sells.
Specific types of business insurance
What type of business insurance 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|
|Public liability insurance|
|Professional indemnity insurance|
|Cyber liability insurance|
|Management liability||Companies with:|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Research published by Roy Morgan in mid-February found that roughly 1 in 6 Australian businesses had already been impacted by the coronavirus. Unfortunately, it's unlikely business insurance will be able to help with lost revenue.
Following the 2003 outbreak of SARS, lots of Australian insurers made significant policy changes, making it difficult for SMEs to claim on their business insurance policies. Of course, there's no harm in contacting your insurer or broker directly - they'll be able to give you a clear idea of how your policy responds.
Remember: Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, business operators are required to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers and others at their workplaces.
Operators must identify hazards at the workplace as well as any associated risks - and act on them, by implementing practicable control measures. If you're aware the coronavirus is a risk in your workplace, and don't act on it, you might be in breach of the act.
Frequently asked questions
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.
Still not sure? Some final questions you might have
Find out if you can claim your premium on your taxes.
Business insurance for your small business
Do you need business insurance if you're working from home?
Steps to compare business insurance quotes
Learn how to get the best bang for your buck.
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