How to guard against those working risks

Everyone, whether stevedore or actor, faces hazards at work - so it is worth looking for a suitable insurer to give you cover.
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The Independent Online

Almost everybody has some kind of private insurance, but workplace policies are different. Salaried staff would do well to check what their employer's policy covers, especially if you face an element of risk at home or abroad. The self-employed must look out for themselves anyway, of course.

Almost everybody has some kind of private insurance, but workplace policies are different. Salaried staff would do well to check what their employer's policy covers, especially if you face an element of risk at home or abroad. The self-employed must look out for themselves anyway, of course.

Yet whilst there are plenty of "household name" insurance companies to cover your personal needs, it is not so simple to find an insurer for various kinds of business.

Take the oilmen who fly to Siberia. They have to use a specialised insurance broker, Lutine, which uses a particular syndicate at Lloyd's. Not so farsighted were servicemen who waited until the South Atlantic or Gulf conflicts to insure their lives. Some insurers refused to provide them with cover. If they had taken out policies in peacetime, they would have had the same rates as civilians. So, more so than many others, servicemen should start life policies (convertible term rather than endowment) as young as possible.

Most professional associations, including sports bodies, provide new members with advice about insurance, whether obligatory or desirable, but not all refer members to an official facility or designated agency.

For example, the Institute of Chartered Accountants insists on professional indemnity insurance (PII) for those of its 118,000 members with clients, and its recommended firm is Accountancy Insurance Services. Yet the Law Society, whose requirements for protecting clients are equally strict, abolished the Solicitors' Indemnity Fund in 1998 at the request of its 80,000 practising members, who must now find their own insurer to assess the appropriate limit.

There was a shake-up of another kind two years ago, when the Architects' Registration Board introduced mandatory brackets of cover for professional work, ranging from £100,000 to £500,000. Policies are issued through the Royal Institute of British Architects' Insurance Agency. PII may not be obvious to the growing number of engineering consultants. John Taylor at the Institution of Civil Engineers says: "We do not make PII mandatory, but as many of our members go independent, it is very strongly recommended in case they are laid open to ethical, civil or criminal proceedings."

Doctors usually insure through the Medical Defence Union, a pioneer of Victorian mutuality. It operates mainly for the 121,000 members of the British Medical Association whose ethical requirements for indemnification will soon be buttressed by legislation covering all specialists in healthcare. Dentists have a choice of five insurers, all but one of which are dedicated organisations.

The British Dental Association requires "an appropriate level of cover" for its 17,000 members, but curiously a dentist need only produce certification to a health authority "if asked to do so", according to government guidelines. As yet, there may be a risk that people in more than one profession will neglect cover without the powers-that-be, let alone the public, finding out.

And there is one group insurers are not keen to sell to - actors. Martin Brown, a spokesman for actors' union Equity, says: "There is still a lot of prejudice against the dramatic profession, so our 30,000 members may find it hard to get anything from household cover to life assurance. A few years ago, AA Insurance publicly wrote actors off as bad drivers."

Equity explains how to obtain insurance in a handbook that also mentions its own pension scheme run by Norwich Union. The union has even negotiated limited employer's contributions within certain freelance contracts (the BBC, for example), while membership alone brings an inbuilt benefit of £100 a week for incapacity or a one-off payment of £20,000 if off stage for life through injury.

Celebrities, meanwhile, can afford to insure their unique talents. The Hollywood legend Gloria Swanson bought a $2m (£1.4m) policy in 1927. Today, that would be a relatively small sum for one of the Lloyd's syndicates that calculate all kinds of risky professions - from stuntmen and sportsmen to divers and divas. The financial adviser preferred by Equity is First Act Insurance in Croydon. Their spokesman, David Pollard, says, "actors can even overcome difficulties getting mortgages with the right contacts. For any cover, the main thing is to find an understanding broker and look hard at all the conditions."

The academic world has a different range of needs. One company, Endsleigh Insurance, has links with the National Union of Students and provides outlets at 60 British campuses. Endsleigh not only deals with undergraduates and their basic possessions. Its customers also include college lecturers and university professors such as Cambridge dons who pay £45 a year to insure their bicycles. The company has separate policies for such items as computers (the premium is at least 2 per cent of the value) and musical instruments, although the Musicians' Union also covers these.

Whatever your job, a commercial association, professional body or trade union will know about the best ways to insure against risk.

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