A Guide to Employer's Liability Insurance - ELCI for UK Businesses

A Guide to Employer's Liability Insurance - ELCI for UK Businesses


James Rowland

Commercial Director James leads Account Management, Sales and Marketing at Neathouse Partners.


20 September 2023


11 July 2024
4 min read

Employer's Liability Compulsory Insurance (ELCI) is a legally mandated insurance that protects employers against claims from employees who suffer an injury or illness due to their work. Any employer with one or more employees generally needs to have this insurance.

Read on to understand why ELCI is a non-negotiable legal requirement if you employ even a single person, the consequences of not being covered, and practical steps for meeting this obligation to protect both your business and its employees.

What Is Employer’s Liability Insurance?

Employer's Liability Compulsory Insurance, often abbreviated as ELCI, is a type of insurance that is legally required for most employers in the United Kingdom. It is legally mandated by the Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act of 1969 and serves as a protective layer for your company. Even if you have work experience, students or unpaid volunteers, they are considered "employees" under this law. So you'll need to have ELCI coverage in place for them as well.

This insurance protects you against financial claims made by employees who might get injured or fall ill due to their work responsibilities. It's worth noting that this insurance won't cover you entirely if you've been negligent in ensuring workplace safety.

How Much Coverage Do You Need?

At the very minimum, the law states that you must have £5 million worth of ELCI coverage, although many insurance providers offer £10 million as a standard package. The amount might need to be higher, depending on the nature and scale of your business operations.

Here's a breakdown of when and why you might need to go above the minimum cover requirements.

High-Risk Industries

Certain sectors are naturally riskier than others when it comes to potential accidents or illnesses. If your business operates within industries like construction, chemical manufacturing, or heavy machinery operation, you might need to consider higher coverage limits. In these fields, the probability of an accident with severe consequences is elevated, thereby increasing the chance of hefty compensation claims.

Large-Scale Operations

The bigger your team, the higher the chance of something going wrong. If you employ a large workforce, especially in multiple locations, your liability exposure increases. It's advisable to go for a higher coverage, in this case, to safeguard against the increased risks that come with scale.

Businesses with Prior Claims

If your business has a history of workers' compensation claims, it's a good indicator that you may need a larger ELCI policy. Previous claims can be seen as red flags by insurers, potentially making future claims more costly and more likely.

Companies with Specialised Workforces

When you employ people with highly specialised skills, any potential injury that takes them out of work for an extended period can be costly. The potential for 'loss of key personnel' can seriously affect the operations and revenue of your business, hence requiring higher ELCI coverage.

Businesses Handling Hazardous Materials

If your business involves the use, disposal, or handling of hazardous materials, this significantly increases the risk of illness or injury. Greater exposure to liability claims in this context means you should consider higher insurance coverage.

Freelancer or Contract-Based Businesses

Even if your workforce is primarily composed of freelancers or contractors, if they are classified as employees under UK law, the liability risk remains. Some contracts may also stipulate certain insurance requirements that exceed the basic ELCI, which would necessitate a larger policy.

To figure out the precise amount of coverage suitable for your particular business, it's advisable to consult with insurance and legal professionals. Keep in mind, that skimping on ELCI can end up costing you much more in the long run.

What Happens If You Don’t Have Employer’s Liability Insurance?

If you don't have Employer's Liability Compulsory Insurance and you're legally required to have it, you can face significant penalties. These can include hefty fines, and in extreme cases, imprisonment. Additionally, you leave your business vulnerable to potentially crippling compensation claims from employees.

What Does ELCI Cover?

The insurance will handle the cost of compensation for any employee claims. This includes both the damages, medical bills and any additional legal costs, subtracting only any excess you've agreed to pay. The liability remains even if the company shuts down or goes bankrupt.

Legal Enforcement and Penalties

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) ensures that businesses comply with ELCI regulations. If you fail to have proper ELCI, your business can incur fines up to £2,500 for each day without coverage. Displaying your ELCI certificate in an accessible location is also a requirement, failure to do so can result in fines up to £1,000.

The Cost of Non-Compliance

The Cost of Non-Compliance

Should an accident occur, lack of ELCI exposes your company to legal prosecution, not to mention the financial burden of covering the injured party's compensation and legal costs from your own pocket. For many businesses, such a situation could be financially devastating and lead to shutting down operations.

Are There Any Exceptions?

Yes, but they're limited. For instance, if you're a sole trader with no employees, or you have an unincorporated family business with all closely related staff, you might not require ELCI. But even in these cases, if you employ interns or volunteers, you're obligated to have insurance.

For more detailed information, feel free to consult the guidelines provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Purchasing & Displaying Your ELCI Certificate

Work with insurance brokers or directly with insurance companies to compare premiums and purchase the right level of coverage for your business. Once you've got your ELCI, display the certificate where all your employees can see it. While it’s not legally required to hold onto expired ELCI certificates, it's a good idea as some diseases take time to show symptoms. Having a record of past coverage can save you from future claims.


ELCI isn’t just a legal requirement. It’s a mark of a responsible employer who values the well-being of their team. Failing to be properly insured opens you up to risks and legal consequences that can hurt your business in the long run. For more in-depth details, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website offers comprehensive guidelines.

Neathouse Partners simplifies the complex landscape of Employer's Liability Compulsory Insurance (ELCI) for you. From ensuring legal compliance and helping you to source appropriate coverage, to developing a robust health and safety policy, and renewals procedures, we offer tailored solutions for businesses of all sizes.

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