Can I claim compensation if I am self-employed?

Updated: March 20, 2020

If you are self-employed, an injury at work can have particularly serious consequences. You may be unable to work for weeks or months during your recovery. Unlike employees, you may not have the support of paid sick leave or other benefits, and your business may suffer while you are unable to work.

This article looks at when and how self-employed people can claim compensation, and how the self-employed injury claims process is different.

Am I self-employed?

Although many small business owners already know their employment status, there are grey areas. You could be self-employed in any of the following situations:

  • You are a freelancer
  • You work for several different companies
  • You run a small business with no other employees
  • You provide your own equipment when doing a job
  • You don't have an employment contract
  • You are being paid a set amount to complete a specific task

There is no strict legal definition of self-employment, some of the above could apply and you may still be considered employed.

You could be employed by another business or be an employee of a company you own. You might not have an employment contract, but if you have worked for a single company for some time, you might now be considered to be employed by that company (for tax and legal purposes).

What are my health and safety duties if I am self-employed?

From October 2015, many self-employed workers are largely exempt from health and safety regulations. You could be exempt if you:

  • Do work that poses no risk to the health and safety of others (like a freelance writer working from home)
  • You do not work in any one of a prescribed list of jobs, including agriculture, construction and gas

If you are exempt, you will probably not need an accident book or to complete regular safety assessments. Even if you don't technically have to carry out health and safety checks, it is still a good idea to do so to make sure your home office or work area is safe.

If you work in certain industries, doing "high-risk activities", you must still observe applicable health and safety rules even if you are self-employed. The specific duties you must observe will vary depending on your job.

High-risk activities include:

  • Forestry
  • Working with livestock for agricultural use
  • Working with gas or electrics
  • Construction
  • Railway maintenance
  • Working with asbestos

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) can provide more detail on your legal duties.

Can I claim compensation?

By law, employers owe a duty of care to their employees. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 are two of the many laws and regulations that set out an employer's duties in more detail.

Many regulations impose duties on employers regarding the health and safety of visitors, members of the public, agency workers, self-employed workers and contractors. Whether you can claim compensation as a self-employed worker will depend on the circumstances of your accident.

I was injured working on another company's premises

If you have been injured while working at premises owned or operated by another company, you may be entitled to claim compensation. Whether you are a cleaner working in an office or a contractor on a building site, the company responsible for the premises probably owes you a duty of care.

You are very likely to have a claim if you were injured by something out of your control. For example, if you were asked to work in an unsafe environment, without guidance or training before commencing a job, or you were injured by another contractor or an employee's negligence.

If you spend most of your time working for one company, under their instructions, that company is more likely to owe you a duty of care.

I was hurt by defective equipment

You may be entitled to claim if you were injured in a work accident involving faulty equipment, tools or personal protective equipment (PPE). If the equipment was supplied by another party (e.g. a building site developer), you may have a strict liability claim against that company. Strict liability means that the company did not need to have been negligent in their failure to check the equipment, they are liable regardless.

Strict liability also applies if you bought the defective equipment yourself. In this case, you may be entitled to claim against either the retailer that sold you the product, the manufacturer or the distributor.

I was hurt working at home, or on public property

Whether you can claim compensation under these circumstances will depend on the cause of your accident. If another party was responsible for your accident, and they owed you a duty of care, you may be able to make a claim.

Even if you are not sure you have a valid claim, you should still consider speaking to us to discuss your options. Call us on 0800 218 2227 for more information.

Who would I claim against?

In almost all cases, compensation will be paid by an insurance company. Which party's insurance, however, will depend on what happened.

Compensation for an accident on another company's property would usually be paid out under that company's public liability insurance.

Compensation for injuries caused by a defective product could be paid out by the insurer of any of the following:

  • The business that provided you with the equipment (e.g. an office providing PPE to a cleaner),
  • The retailer that sold the equipment,
  • The distributor that imported the equipment, or,
  • The manufacturer

Compensation for an accident on public property (e.g. a council-operated park or pavement) will usually be paid by the local authority's insurance provider.

Your solicitor will advise you on which party you should claim compensation against.

What do you need to do?

If you are self-employed and have been injured at work, there are several things you should do as soon as you can. These include reporting the accident, getting medical attention, and keeping records of what happened.

Reporting the accident

All work accidents should be reported, even if you are self-employed, for several reasons:

  • Someone can take action to prevent further injuries occurring
  • By law, many work accidents must be reported to the HSE
  • You will have an official record of the accident (e.g. in a company accident book)

Getting medical attention

Even if you got first aid at the scene of the accident, you should see your GP or go to A&E as soon as you can. A doctor will be able to assess your injuries properly and will recommend treatment as necessary.

Your medical records will also clearly set out the nature and severity of your injuries. This is very useful evidence in support of a compensation claim.

Keeping a record of the accident

You should document as much as you can about the accident, including:

  • Contact details of any witnesses
  • Photos of the accident scene, and of your injuries
  • A copy of the accident book report (if possible)
  • Notes about what happened in your own words

How much compensation can I claim?

Whether you are self-employed or employed, the compensation you would get is calculated based on what injuries you suffered, and how serious they are.

Your total is not likely to be affected by who is liable for the accident. Your compensation may be reduced if you were found to be partly responsible for your injuries (e.g. you were hit by falling debris but failed to wear a hard hat).

Compensation is calculated in two parts:

  • General damages - This is paid in respect of the pain, suffering and "loss of amenity" you have experienced. The figure is worked out with reference to a table of official guideline amounts.
  • Special damages - This amount is based on the financial losses caused by your accident, including lost earnings, travel expenses and treatment costs.

The Work Accident Advice Centre online calculator sets out what you can claim for, and how much compensation you could claim.

No win, no fee injury claims for self-employed workers

You will usually be entitled to make a work accident claim on a No Win, No Fee basis, even if you are self-employed.

No win, no fee means that your solicitor's legal fees will only be paid if your claim is successful and you receive compensation. If your claim is not successful, you will not have any legal fees to pay whatsoever.

Have you been injured at work?

If you have been injured at work in the last 3 years, you may be able to claim financial compensation.

Find out more about making a work accident claim:

  • Do you qualify?
  • How much compensation could you get?
  • How does No Win, No Fee work?
Work accident claim guide