How every contractor can benefit from Professional Indemnity insurance

Professional Indemnity Insurance

We’ve no doubt that you’ve heard of Professional Indemnity insurance before. You may know it by a different name; errors and omissions, PI insurance or professional liability insurance. Whatever you call it, it means the same thing.

It’s insurance that provides cover for freelance contractors in the event that a client suffers financial losses as a result of a ‘breach of professional duty’. That could mean neglect of professional responsibilities, an error in work or omission on the part of the contractor.

It’s a pretty fundamental element of cover for any contractor. It will protect you if a client alleges you’ve made a mistake in any designs, advice or specifications you provide during the course of your contract.

Many freelance contracts now require you have a minimum level of Professional Indemnity cover and for good reason. Read on to find out what we think are some of the main benefits that this insurance can bring to a contractor’s life.

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Getting accredited: the benefits of professional memberships

Accreditation

Trust is a remarkable thing, especially in the world of contracting. If a client trusts you and the quality of your work then you build a reputation as a trustworthy professional and this can do wonders for your career and the opportunities to which you are exposed.

During the course of your career as a contractor you may have considered joining a professional body and becoming accredited as a way of further cementing client trust in your work.  You may have already done so as a result of certain, industry specific legislation, or you may be considering doing so for the business benefits. In this blog we’re going to look at some of the ways that becoming an accredited contractor can add value to your business.

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The insurance products no engineer can afford to forget

Engineering Insurance

We understand that when you’re freelancing, you want to focus on the job at hand and creating the best work possible. Sometimes, insurance products don’t come at the top of your to-do list and can seem like an unnecessary expense.

However, if you’re a freelance engineer, you occupy a unique and interesting position when it comes to insuring yourself. Your work is based on problem solving and solution finding, and more often than not, your work product will affect the public, not just your end client. It is for that reason that gaining access to adequate insurance cover should be at the very top of your to-do list!

What’s more, many (if not all) freelance contracts stipulate that a freelancer must be covered by a minimum amount of insurance, so your future contract jobs could depend on having access to quality insurance.

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A look ahead – what will the general election mean for freelancers and contractors?

General Election 2015

It pays for freelancers, contractors and the self-employed to pay attention to what is happening politically in the country.  Regardless of the outcome of any election, the independent professional community will be affected by policy making and the winning party’s stance on the self-employed and small businesses in general.

In research published last year, IPSE found that up to 90% of their freelance membership was likely to vote in the upcoming general election. Now, with just over a week to go until the day of reckoning, interest within the freelance community is at its highest.

With election fever well and truly in full swing we wanted to take a brief look at how each of the main parties proposes to support the UK’s freelance community and how independent professionals will fare depending on which party, or which coalition, assumes power on 7th May.

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Five resolutions every contractor should make for the new financial year

New Financial Year 2015

We all made our diet, fitness, productivity and anything-else-you-can-think-of resolutions in January, as the new calendar year rolled in. However, April brings us a new kind of New Year: the new financial year.

As we covered last month, the Chancellor has revealed his final Budget before the general election and the calendar has officially restarted on the fiscal year. So, what better time to look at some practices every contractor can assume for the benefit of their finances. Here are our five financial resolutions that every freelancer should think about implementing this financial year.

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A Contractor’s Guide to Public Liability Insurance

Public Liability Insurance

Whether you’re a career contractor or you’ve just dipped your toe in the world of professional freelancing, you’ll have likely heard about Public Liability insurance. And there’s a reason for this; it’s one of the most important types of business cover and it’s an absolute essential for any contractor.

Why is it so essential? Well, as we all know, accidents and mishaps can happen, but that doesn’t mean that you, or your business, need to be out of pocket as a result. Public Liability insurance protects you and your business in the event of an accident or damage being caused where you could be held liable.

If you don’t invest in Public Liability insurance, and someone is injured or property is damaged as a result of your actions, then you could become legally bound to pay them compensation. Simple mistakes can become expensive, fast!

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Health and Safety in the Oil and Gas Industry

Oil Gas Health Safety

It’s no secret that the petroleum industry is exposed to certain, very specific risks. If you’re a freelancer in the oil and gas industry then you will be more aware than most about the risks inherent in this line of work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in its Offshore Strategic Context report for 2014-2017, outlines their priority for the health and safety of the UK’s offshore industry is maintaining the integrity of the existing infrastructure that makes up approximately 50% of current offshore platforms. The main aim of this is to avoid a major incident that could result in the death of any offshore workers.

With health and safety such a critical issue within the industry, there are a number of principal risks that the HSE find must be eliminated in order to ensure the safety of the more than 32,000 workers in the petroleum industry.

Risk of fire and explosion

Any release of hydrocarbon carries the risk of ignition, fire and subsequent explosion. Hydrocarbon releases, or HCRs, can be caused either by the breakdown or erosion of a station’s assets (pipelines, pipeline risers or process plants) or by improper maintenance.

In its report, the HSE highlights that the industry has noticed the importance of reducing HCRs and that by April 2013 there was a near 50% reduction in releases, and a plan had been set out to achieve a further 50% reduction by 2016. However, by late in 2013 there had been a 30% rise in releases once more. It’s clear that this is a continuing issue for the industry and one that could have deadly consequences if not attended to.

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Budget 2015 – the Contractor Wish List

Budget 2015

With just two days to go until Chancellor George Osbourne delivers his final Budget before the 2015 General Election, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) have released a new report detailing a Budget wish list for contractors and freelancers, outlining some of the changes they would like to see from The Treasury on Wednesday 18th March.

Let’s take a look at what some of their main proposals are and how they stand to benefit the lives of independent professionals across the country.

Simplifying the tax system

At the top of IPSE’s list is a call for the Government to commit to extensive tax simplification measures. This is a perennial issue, especially for one person limited companies, for whom navigating complex tax legislation (notably IR35) is a time consuming and costly issue.

Interestingly, Derek Kelly, Managing Director of ClearSky Contractor Accounting, writes for Contractor UK that he predicts that the UK’s independent professionals would actually appreciate maintenance of the status quo when it comes to tax legislation. Specifically, he believes that effective enforcement of current IR35 legislation would receive a warmer welcome than more rules and excessive complications being put in place.

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What can contractors expect from 2015’s budget?

2015 Budget Contractors Freelancers

This year’s Budget statement from chancellor George Osborne is due to take place on 18th March. The lead up to the budget is always marked by endless predictions about what to expect from tax to duty and public spending. Rightly so, as there are very few people who will not feel the impact of the decisions that will be announced later this month, whether it’s how much tax you pay or the price you pay for everyday essentials.

But contractors, freelancers and independent professionals occupy a unique position in relation to the Budget. The rise of freelancing in the last couple of years means that freelancers can contribute to the recovery of the UK economy as it continues the uphill climb to emerge out of the recession.  Freelancing helps to create jobs and promotes entrepreneurship so it is increasingly expected that the budget will include concessions toward protecting freelancers and making the option of contracting more attractive.

So what can independent professionals expect out of the budget this year? Well, to answer that question fully we would need a crystal ball or the ability to project ahead two weeks in time. In the absence of time travel, we can explore the impact of last year’s Budget and consider what changes are likely to happen that will affect the community of independent professionals across the UK.

Budget 2014 – what was in it for freelancers?

There has been some concern that, despite the Conservatives’ pledge of being ‘the party of small business’ they have actually made very few direct budget and policy adjustments to both protect and encourage freelancing in the UK.

Julie Stewart, Chairman of IPSE, commented after last year’s budget that there is an urgent need for measurements to be put into place to empower freelancers to tackle late payment, a problem that freelancers struggle with regardless of industry. She also highlighted the importance of making the communications infrastructure, including wider access to the 4G network, much more affordable for those that have to travel but remain contactable for their business.

IPSE’s blog took a detailed look at last year’s budget, closely examining elements of it that were likely to affect freelancers significantly and any specific nods made toward the independent professional  population. It’s well worth a read and will provide plenty of food for thought. Check it out here.

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Should I get my freelance contract reviewed for IR35 compliance?

IR35

IR35 is the legislation on everyone’s lips and it’s a subject that we have covered a number of times.  Since its passing into law in 2000, it’s been a priority for freelancers and contractors to make sure they don’t get caught in the IR35 net.

Some professional organisations now offer independent reviews of your contracts that check for IR35 compliance, giving you the peace of mind from the outset that you are not at risk of being caught out. This week, we’re going to investigate if these contract reviews are really worth it for independent professionals today.

IR35 – the risks

IR35 is aimed at uncovering ‘disguised employment’. This affects people that provide their services through a limited company, known as a personal services company. ‘Disguised employment’ is when a freelancer works on a contract through their limited company, but their working conditions and their contract indicates that they are working in the same way as a traditional employee.

If one of your contracts is caught by IR35 legislation i.e. – your work appears to be more like that of a traditional employee –  your income will then become subject to normal income tax and National Insurance contributions and you will lose the advantage of the low salary, high dividends tax arrangement that many freelancers benefit from.

IR35

The Assessment

If you are selected by HMRC to undergo an IR35 compliance investigation they will investigate both your contract and your working arrangements. That means that the way you work and the language of the contract you are working under need to be in agreement.

This is where the skills of a professional contract assessor really come to the rescue for a busy freelancer. Employment status experts will investigate the terms of your contract as well as delving into your working practices through the eyes of an HMRC investigator. That means that you have an objective onlooker examining your compliance for IR35 without you having to get bogged down in the finer details of this often very hard to understand legislation.

This way, you can be secure that both the wording of your contract, and the way in which you actually complete the work in the contract, are compliant with IR35, limiting your exposure to the risks of having an unexamined contract.

This, to us, is the biggest advantage of having an employment status professional review your contract and the way in which your services are delivered. It’s sure to give you peace of mind that a professional can help you prove to HMRC that you’ve taken reasonable steps to IR35-proof your contract.

When HMRC investigate the validity of your contract against the stipulations of IR35 legislation they carry out a series of Business Entity Tests.  These tests function as one of the ways to prove that your contract is at low, medium or high risk of being caught out by IR35.

Being covered by Professional Indemnity (PI) insurance can improve your IR35 stance and forms part of the Business Entity Test. That means that ensuring that you are fully covered as a freelance contractor is a vital step to cover yourself at every level. At Kingsbridge we have designed our core insurance package to cover the risks you’re exposed to as a freelance contractor. This includes Professional Indemnity, Public Liability and Employers’ Liability cover, all at levels that suit the needs of the modern freelancer.

If you wish to discuss your cover requirements then simply call our friendly, professional team at Kingsbridge on 01242 362160 and we will be happy to discuss your needs with you. Or, you can apply online to get access to cover almost instantly.