Self-Employed Accident at Work Claims

05 April 2018

Whilst self-employed workers are generally responsible for ensuring their own safety in the workplace, there are many cases where an injured self-employed worker can make a personal injury claim for compensation.

The most common type of case is when a self-employed worker suffers injury in an accident that was caused by the actions or negligence of someone else.

At Co-op Legal Services most claims can be dealt with on a No Win No Fee basis.

Self-Employed Workers and Employers’ Liability Insurance

All employers, employing one person or more, are legally obliged to have Employers’ Liability Insurance in place. This insurance covers employers against the cost of any claims brought by employees following an accident or illness that they have suffered as a result of the employer breaching their duty of care.

Self-employed workers who do not employ any other workers do not need to have this insurance in place, as there are no employees to make a claim against them. If a self-employed worker is providing services to an organisation as a contractor, then this is where the lines can become blurred. In order to establish whether someone working as a contractor would be covered under Employers’ Liability Insurance, it’s necessary to establish exactly how they were employed at the time of the accident.

Definition of Self-Employed

There are several distinguishing factors which differentiate someone who is self-employed from an employed worker. Firstly they’re in business for themselves – they use their own money to cover running costs, provide their own tools or equipment and they are responsible for the success or failure of their business. 

In addition, they will not be paid through PAYE, meaning income tax will not be automatically deducted from their pay. They can also choose to hire someone else to complete the work on their behalf if they wish, they can work for more than one client and they can decide what work they do as well as how, when and where to do it.

If you have been classed as self employed by the person who has hired you, but for example you are required to use tools and materials provided for you then you may actually be classed as an employee in the eyes of the law. If so, employers will have to comply with their common law and statutory duties to ensure you are provided with a safe place of work, a safe system of work, safe plant, tools and equipment and clear access to your workplace.

Who’s Responsible for the Safety of Self-Employed People?

The common law requirements which impose duties on employers so far as health and safety issues are concerned don’t generally apply to self-employed people as they are their own boss. Many self-employed people do however have a duty to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act. Under this act, self-employed people are required to assess the risks to their own health and safety at work as well as to the health and safety of the other people that they work with, putting in place appropriate control measures where needed.

If the work activity of the self-employed person poses no potential risk of harm to other people and they do not employ anyone else, then they may be exempt from health and safety law. This might include a self-employed person working as an IT consultant, for example.

If the self-employed person has no control over the conditions in which they are working, then the health and safety responsibility may lie with someone else. For example, if a self-employed plumber is working on a large construction site, working under the instruction of a construction company with no control over the working environment, then the construction company is likely to have a duty of care towards the plumber.

In these circumstances, a self-employed individual has a right to expect that the company they are working with will ensure that their working environment is safe. This will include providing adequate training, providing the proper equipment to carry out the work and providing protective gear.

No Statutory Sick Pay for Self-Employed Workers

If a self-employed person is injured at work and has to take time off as a result, they will not receive Statutory Sick Pay during this time. This is because Statutory Sick Pay is only paid by an employer to an employee.

However, a self-employed person who is temporarily unable to work due to illness or injury may be eligible to receive Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This is an allowance that is paid to people who are unable to work, or have a limited capability to work, because of sickness or disability but who do not receive statutory sick pay. For more information on ESA, visit

What to Do if You Are Injured at Work

Regardless of whether you are employed or self-employed, if you suffer an injury at work then you should record the details of the accident. If you are working on the site of a company then they are required by law to have an accident book on site. If this is the case then it’s important to record the accident in the accident book. 

If you’re able to, it’s a good idea to take photographs of the equipment or environment that caused the accident and to take down contact details of anyone else who witnessed the accident. 

If you are self-employed and you have suffered injury in an accident at work, our Personal Injury Solicitors can help you to understand if your claim has the potential to be successful.

Also see Employers’ Liability Claims vs Public Liability Claims Explained

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