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Insurance for business incurred injuries: what public liability vs workers' compensation provides

Published 02 May 2022

Accidents can happen in spite of precautions and they can occur at your business premises. For business owners it’s critical to review and consider what insurance protections may cover expenses arising from workplace visitors or employees sustaining physical or psychological injuries. Not having the right insurance cover in place may leave businesses liable for damages claims and legal costs. Here’s some guidance on how you may (or may not) be covered, and some details on the types of insurance cover available via Gallagher for people getting hurt or becoming ill while at your work premises.

Public liability relates to members of the public or visitors, and workers’ compensation relates to your own employees or contractors.

Any business where members of the public have access to the premises or site of work are advised to consider public liability insurance cover – but this protection can also be misunderstood as public liability (PPL) applies to people but excludes the business’s employees. 

In other words, if one of your staff is injured at work the business’s public liability insurance won’t cover that – but instead they would typically be covered by workers’ compensation (which is compulsory for employers to have in place). Both public liability and workers’ compensation insurance cover businesses for injuries to people and support for costs involved, including compensation. 


What business risks does public liability insurance cover?

Public liability insurance is usually provided to businesses that produce or process consumer goods of any type. It’s designed to cover legal and settlement costs if a visitor to your business premises or place of work, or their possessions, are harmed as a result of your business, and they may then bring a legal claim against you.

For example, if a visitor to your business office trips and falls over something on the floor, breaking a laptop they were holding and injuring their leg, they may sue your business if they believe the cause was business related, such as not removing trip hazards in a public space.

What does public liability insurance not cover?

As with all insurance policies, it is important to understand that not everything is covered everywhere, all the time. Here are some example of risks that are not covered by a standard public and products liability policy unless specially agreed with the insurer:

  • asbestos liability cyber liability
  • environmental liability 
  • faulty or incomplete work
  • professional liability
  • product recalls. 

What does workers’ compensation insurance cover?

Workers’ compensation is compulsory insurance cover that is a regulatory requirement for all Australian businesses to protect their employees. It applies only to employees (including contractors and subcontractors in some circumstances) and provides cover if they are injured in the course of working for your business or if they become ill as a result of their work. It doesn’t apply to damage to their property or possessions.

In Australia workers’ compensation insurance providers vary but the intention is the same: to provide an affected employee with workers’ compensation entitlements such as:

  • financial support while they’re unable to work
  • medical and hospital expenses
  • rehabilitation services
  • lump sum payments for cases of permanent disability

across the states and territories, and each scheme has different rules in place.

How does my business access the right workers’ compensation for our employees?

Workers’ compensation is compulsory for businesses with employees. The workers’ compensation a business needs to purchase depends on its location ‒ each state and territory regulates the workers’ compensation for business operations within their borders, and most state schemes are run by a single appointed insurer.

Businesses in some specific areas have flexibility to choose a workers’ compensation provider and Gallagher brokers can help businesses in Canberra (ACT), Tasmania, Western Australia (WA) or the Northern Territory (NT).

 Get expert help with your business insurance needs

Our business insurance specialists can help with public (and products) liability cover for your business and advise on any other business insurance requirements. 

For workers’ compensation Gallagher not only offers access to insurers for businesses in locations that have a choice of workers' compensation insurers, but our Workplace Health & Safety specialist risk advisors   also offer everything from safety mentoring and training through to health and wellness programs, hazard and risk profiling, and incident management and investigation for larger companies.

Further reading


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Gallagher provides insurance, risk management and benefits consulting services for clients in response to both known and unknown risk exposures. When providing analysis and recommendations regarding potential insurance coverage, potential claims and/or operational strategy in response to national emergencies (including health crises), we do so from an insurance and/or risk management perspective.
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