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Work placements – employers get ready!

Many businesses find themselves being asked to provide valuable work experience for local school and college students, and if you are able to offer a placement it is a valuable part of the student's education in readiness for the workplace. This can be a daunting experience for the student and it is important to make sure their visit is well planned, that they are welcomed and provided with an environment where they can learn and develop.

When you are considering taking a student into your company, remember that there are various considerations to bear in mind, not least with regard to health and safety as well as insurance, and it vital that employers recognise the importance of these. The principal insurance risks which may arise as a result of work experience and other visits are:

> Injury to the students themselves

> Injuries to others on the premises (employees, visitors, customers etc)

> Injury to others who are not on the premises (including customers and members of the general public)

> Damage to, or loss of, employers' property

> Damage to, or loss of other property (eg: the student's or a customer's property)

The ABI, BIBA and Lloyds of London have all agreed that, as a matter of convention, students on work experience placements should be treated as employees for the purposes of insurance against bodily injury (in other words, they will be covered by the Employer's Liability policy), which means the employer is legally liable for a loss. Such placements must conform to the requirements of the Education Act 1996 and any other regulations in force from time to time.

Most employers carry insurance policies which cover most risks arising from work experience, provided that the work experience is in accordance with the normal business practice of the employer. Employer's Liability insurance covers the employer's liability in respect of work-related injuries to employees. This insurance is compulsory by law.

Employer's Liability policies must provide cover of at least £5million per occurrence, although most policies now cover up to £10million. Policies normally cover all conventional employees, contract, casual and seasonal staff as well as temporary staff – including workplace students. Public liability insurance provides cover for injuries to the public or damage to, or loss of, their property. The term 'public' refers to anyone other than an employee, so it includes students, volunteers, activity participants, spectators and visitors. Generally, Public Liability policies provide cover of between £2million and £5million.

To summarise, injuries caused to students on work experience, who are undertaking activities in connection with the work of the employer, whether at the place of work or away from it, will be covered by the Employers' Liability insurance policy. Any injuries caused to other employees by students on work experience should normally be covered by the Employers' Liability policy.

Injury to third parties not connected to the employer, such as customers, visitors or other non-employees, will be covered by Public Liability policies. Student injury arising from other visits to places of employment, such as site visits, seminars, conference, etc would also normally be covered by the employer's Public Liability policy.

Therefore, any person seeking to provide work experience to a student but who does not have an existing Employers Liability policy (eg, sole traders) MUST take out Employer's Liability insurance for the duration of the work experience in order to be covered. A Public Liability insurance is not adequate cover in this case, and some employers have fallen foul of this in the past, so obtain professional advice if you are in any doubt.

Damage to the employer's property may be covered by the employer's material damage policy. Damage to anyone else's property on the premises should normally be covered by the employer's Public Liability policy.

There is a requirement for a notification of risk: employers should notify their insurers of the sort of activity which students will undertake if those activities are onerous or different from the normal business activities of the employer. In these circumstances the employer should make sure they obtain written confirmation that the risk has been accepted.

Some of the new qualifications which students are working towards mean that they need to undertake work experience for longer than the usual two weeks – some diploma courses now require this, for example. This should not present a problem with extended work placements but the employer will probably be required to provide more detailed information to their insurers.

Work experience organisers are usually very adept at making the experience as free from onerous duties for the employer as possible. They are not expected to check the small print on insurance policies but will need to know that the relevant insurance is in place, that health and safety issues are addressed and that the student will be in a welcoming and safe environment.

Business insurance can be complicated at the best of times, and professional advice is invaluable in making sure that, as an employer, you have complied with all legislative and commercial requirements. Our professional team of advisors at Westhill Insurance Services will be able to make sure you are fully compliant and have all the insurance in place you require to protect your business, its employees and visitors – and don't forget that premises, stock and possible loss of earnings are all important factors to be considered too.

Contact Westhill Insurance Services, today.

Posted on 27th June, 2013