Sole Trader Public Liability Insurance

September 28, 2023

As a sole trader you put your heart and soul into your business. Pardon the pun…

Therefore it’s vital to protect your precious business with public liability insurance.

We’ve put together the ultimate guide on sole trader’s public liability insurance.  Read on, or click the button below if you’re just after a quote.

In our sole trader public liability insurance guide we’ll cover the following topics:

  • What is public liability insurance?
  • Why do sole traders need public liability?
  • Is public liability compulsory for sole traders?
  • Occupations requiring public liability
  • Public liability cost for sole traders
  • Public liability quotes for sole traders

If you’d prefer to speak with one of our experts on public liability insurance, please call our office on 1800 090 888.

We love small business, we love insurance, and we’d love to help protect your precious business!

What is public liability insurance?

To put in bluntly, public liability is the insurance that is going to save your bacon if you make a big mistake in your business!

The policy will respond in the event that your negligence results in property damage or personal injury to a third party.

Property damage example:

You’re a tradie working in a client’s house, and you accidentally knock a big flat screen TV over, which smashes the TV.

As it was your actions that resulted in the TV breaking, the public liability insurance would cover the cost of replacing that TV.

Personal injury example:

You’re a gardener, and you’re doing some work in your client’s front yard.

Your mobile phone rings, and you just up to take the call, but have left you shovel and some other items across the footpath.

A personal walking along the footpath doesn’t see your items, and they trip over and break their wrist when trying to stop the fall.

In this case you have been negligent by leaving your gear across the footpath, and therefore you are liable for the person’s medical costs and potentially their loss of income whilst injured.

As you were responsible for the incident, your public liability insurance would respond.

Why do sole traders need public liability?

Public liability insurance is vital for almost any business, but for a sole trader the stakes are even higher.

Operating as a sole trader is the most basic of all business structures, which is great in terms of set-up costs, but it doesn’t provide a lot of protection for the business owner.

As a sole trader, you and your business are a single entity. Anything that your business is financially liable for, you are also personally liable for.

On the other hand, if you operated as a Pty Ltd company, your personal and business affairs are somewhat quarantined from each other.

So if your business activities did result in property damage or personal injury to another person, you would be personally liable for those costs.

If we’re talking a few grand you could probably deal with that, but what if your work resulted in a serious injury to another person, and that financial liability starting climbing into the hundreds of thousands?

You would be personally liable for that amount, and it could potentially result in you losing your house or other assets.

If you operated as a Pty Ltd company however, the debt could send the business bankrupt, but it wouldn’t generally put your personal assets – such as your home – at risk.

But if you have the right public liability insurance in place, you don’t need to worry about this scenario, as your policy would cover you for such events.

And that’s what makes sole trader public liability insurance so important. You’re highly exposed personally to any business issues, which means your public liability insurance is a vital part of your protection.

Is public liability compulsory for sole traders?

Although public liability insurance is not required by law for sole traders, there will be certain situations where you cannot operate without it.

A good example is certain licensed occupations within the trades. Electricians and plumbers in most states of Australia require public liability insurance in order to obtain a licence.

Without public liability you couldn’t obtain or renew your licence, and therefore couldn’t lawfully operate your business.

Another example is when you are renting premises for your small business. Many leases will require that you hold public liability insurance.

The contracts you enter can also have an impact. Many contracts, especially those involving physical labour and working on-site will require that a sole trader has their own public liability insurance in place.

Occupations requiring public liability

Almost anyone operating as a sole trader, in any occupation, could benefit from having public liability insurance.

The most common type of sole trader needing public liability is tradies. This is an obvious one given the manual nature of their work, and the greater likelihood of personal injury or property damage.

Common trades requiring public liability include:

  • Electricians
  • Plumbers
  • Carpenters
  • Painters
  • Plasterers
  • Bricklayers
  • Tilers

Many other service-related sole traders will also require cover:

  • Gardeners
  • Lawn mowers
  • Cleaners
  • Handymen

Although less likely to be operated under a sole trader structure, most hospitality and retail businesses shouldn’t operate without public liability insurance:

  • Cafes
  • Restaurants
  • Market stalls
  • Retail shops

The truth is, any type of sole trader activity which involves any type of contact with other people should have public liability insurance in place.

If there is the potential for a third party to suffer an injury, or for their property to be damaged, you need to have cover in place.

Public liability cost for sole traders

There are a number of factors which go into the public liability insurance cost for a business.

One of the major factors is the size of your business. With sole traders typically being a single-person operation, that will generally keep the cost quite low.

For a typical sole trader who does nothing too out of the ordinary, the cost of $5 million public liability could be as low as $500.

But whilst the size of your business is a major factor, there are other factors which have nothing to do with size.

The type of work you undertake and the locations you work at can also have an impact.

If you’re a gardener doing typical gardening work at domestic homes, your risk is very low and the premium will be quite low as well.

But if you’re a boilermaker undertaking work in the mines, your risk is a whole lot higher, and the premium will be higher too! In that case we could be talking thousands of dollars per year.

You would generally expect a boilermaker in the mines to be earning a lot more than a domestic gardener though, so as a percentage of earning the cost might not be too different.

Public liability quotes for sole traders

There are two ways for a sole trader to obtain quotes on public liability insurance.

You can take the DIY approach and purchase an instant online policy. This is quick and easy, but doesn’t come with the personal touch or peace of mind that a broker can provide.

At we have a team of online brokers based right here in Australia who review every quote request.

They’ll use the knowledge and experience to find the right policy to match your business, and recommend the most competitive option that meets your requirements.

Your broker will be there for you as your business grows, and most importantly will be there to manage any claims you need to make on your insurance.

We might operate online, but we’re no call centre. We’re a team of qualified insurance brokers and support staff who are passionate about protecting small businesses!

Don’t DIY your public liability insurance. Trust the experts at!

Public Liability Insurance Cost

September 22, 2023

The cost of public liability insurance depends upon many different factors, and can literally range from $500 to $500,000 or more!

Given the huge spread, there are clearly a lot of factors at play when calculating the cost of public liability insurance for a business.

If you’re simply after some quotes, please call us on 1800 090 888 or click the button below.

For those that are more interested in learning about public liability insurance cost and how it is calculated, please read on…



Public liability insurance is undoubtedly the most common form of business insurance.

If you could only afford one type of insurance for your business, public liability is likely the one you’d want to spend your money on.

But just how much money should you be spending on public liability insurance?

The answer of course depends hugely on the specifics of your business.

In this guide we’ll run through the following factors which can affect your public liability insurance cost:

  • Level of cover
  • Size of business
  • Business activities
  • Work locations
  • Subcontractor and labour hire use
  • Claims history

There can be other factors, but the vast majority of premium pricing will come down to these factors.

We’ll now take a look at each on in closer detail.

Level of cover

We’ll start with a very easy one, which is the amount of cover you require.

For most businesses in Australia there are three options for the amount of public liability insurance you can hold:

  • $5 million
  • $10 million
  • $20 million

Some businesses operating in higher risk areas, such as those involving public utilities and infrastructure, may require higher amounts such as $50 million.

It makes sense that the more cover you need, the most the insurance is going to cost.

Whilst $5 million cover will cost you more than $10 million, the good news is that the price won’t double from $5 to $10 million, and certainly won’t quadruple from $5 to $20 million!

Each insurance company will have a slightly different calculation for how the increase in coverage affects the premium, and the only way to know this is by requesting comparative quotes.

The amount of cover you require will depend largely on the types of contracts your business has entered into, or what licensing requirements your business may have.

For example, an electrician in QLD will require a minimum of $5 million for their licence, but they may have signed a contract to work on a shopping centre that requires all contractors have $20 million cover.

Size of business

Just as the size of the insurance coverage has an impact, so to does the size of the business being insured.

There are two ways that an insurance company may judge the size of your business:

  • Number of staff
  • Annual revenue

In some cases an insurer may take both numbers into account, but this isn’t common at the SME level.

Why does the size of business impact the cost?  Simply because a larger business has more going on, and therefore more changes of having a claim.

Lets use a café as an example.  Café 1 is a small café with only five staff, and café 2 is much larger, operating in a major shopping centre with up to twenty staff working at any given time.

There is potentially four times the chance of someone going wrong, simply because there are four times the number of workers, and the potential for human error.

It also means there are many more customers and members of the public coming through the café, which again increases the changes of someone suffering a slip-and-fall event or even food poisoning.

Ultimately, the larger the business, the more opportunities there are for something to go wrong, resulting in a higher chance of a claim occurring.

The higher change of a claim occurring means that the insurance company needs to increase the cost of the public liability insurance.

It is true that a larger business may have better procedures and processes in order to reduce the chance of a claim, and this can be taken into account when pricing the insurance for a much larger business.

Business activities

The type of work undertaken by the business can have an enormous impact on the cost of the company’s public liability insurance.

The insurer will be looking at the business activities and judging the likelihood of a public liability claim, along with the potential size of that claim.

We’ll compare two businesses of the same size, but different business activities, to demonstrate.

Company 1 is an accounting firm with 100 staff spread across two city offices.  They have some clients and associated people visiting the office, but are essentially just a group of people working in the office all day.

Company 2 is a mobile welding business, specialising in heavy transport.

They too have 100 staff, with 75 of those being out on the road undertaking welding and repair work on trucks and trailers.

The main risk for company 1 is that visitors to their office suffer an injury, such as tripping over a hazard in the office.

You can’t say there is no risk of this happening, but the risk is very low, and therefore their public liability insurance cost would be relatively low.

The risks for company 2 are huge by comparison.  They are undertaking welding work at client’s premises, which brings a major fire risk to property that is not owned by them.

Furthermore, they are working on heavy transport assets, and if their work was to be negligent and result in a truck or trailer crash, the consequences could be catastrophic.

This perfectly demonstrates how two businesses which are identical in size could have hugely different public liability insurance premiums based solely on their business activities.

Essentially, the higher risk you work is, the higher your insurance cost is going to be.

Work locations

Work locations can be viewed in a similar way to business activities, but there are some important differences.

Some work locations carry a higher risk of claiming, and a higher potential claim size.

For this example we’ll use two electrical contracting companies.  Both are the same size, but operate in different locations.

Electrician 1 is a domestic electrician, which most work being undertaken in private homes.

Electrician 2 is contracting to an underground mining business.

Right off the bat, working in an underground mine is typically going to be more stressful or hazardous than working in someone’s home, which can increase the potential for a claim.

More important is the potential size of the loss.  There is certainly the potential for a large claim involving a private household, but in a large mining operation it could be stratospherically higher.

An error in the electrical work could see a large mine site have to close for hours or even days whilst the issue is rectified.

What might it cost to shut down a massive mine for a day?  It could easily be millions of dollars that you’re on the hook for.

Any work locations that carry a higher level of risk, or a higher potential for a much larger claim, will carry a much higher public liability insurance cost.

These locations can include some of the following:

  • Mine sites
  • Airports and seaports
  • Power stations
  • Public infrastructure
  • Hospitals

This list won’t be relevant for many businesses, but can be very relevant for businesses operating in the trades and services.

Subcontractor and labour hire use

If your businesses uses subcontractors or labour hire you will typically find that the cost of your public liability insurance will be higher.

Part of this comes down to an issue known as worker-to-worker injuries.

This is were an employee of one business is responsible for an injury to an employee of another business on the same location.

If the injury was caused by an employee of the same business, there is no issue, but if they’re an employee of another business, the worker’s compensation provider may go after the other employer.

It sounds a little complex, but essentially there is a higher risk of a public liability claim when workers employed by different companies are working together, and typically this is the case when subcontractors or labour hire staff are being used.

Another potential risk is that subcontractors or labour hire staff might not have the same level of familiarity with the workplace as permanent employees do, and therefore the chances of a claim are higher.

We’re certainly not suggesting that subcontractors or labour hire workers are any less competent than other works, but it is something that will impact upon the insurance cost.

If the percentage of revenue paid to subcontractors and labour hire is particularly high, some insurers will refuse to offer public liability insurance at any cost.

Claims history

The final factor we’ll look at is the claims history for a business.

It is the size and number of recent public liability insurance claims that could have an impact on the cost of insurance.

For a single small claim you will likely see no increase to your premium, but larger or more frequent claims can have an impact.

If the claim was large enough, or there was enough of them, you could find that you cannot get insurance at all.

This is where a good insurance broker will be able to assist.  They can put together a case that takes into account your claim mitigation efforts, in order to help secure a more competitive premium.

Other factors

Whilst the factors we have listed above would cover 99.9% of cases, there may be additional factors in extreme cases.  This wouldn’t be typical for an SME client however.

The best way to find out exactly how much your public liability insurance will cost is to request a quote from our team of insurance brokers.

They’ll help you to find a policy that best matches your needs, along with finding you a suitable policy at a competitive price.

When comparing public liability quotes, remember that the cheapest isn’t always the best.  It’s important to know you are comparing apples with apples, and only the experience of a qualified insurance broker can guarantee that.


Subcontractor Insurance Guide

June 27, 2019

As a subcontractor there are several insurance types you will require, such as public liability insurance.

We’ve put together a guide on the various forms of subcontractor insurance available, which ones are required in Australia and a closer look at each in more detail.

We also look at exactly why a subcontractor needs insurance.  After all, why pay for something if you don’t even know why you need it!

If you’re just after a public liability quote please follow the link, or read on to check out the guide.

Why Subcontractors Need Insurance

As an employee you typically have a lot of protections in place.

If something goes wrong on the worksite and you cause damage or personal injury to a third party, it will generally be your employer who is responsible financially.

If you suffer an injury yourself you’ll be protected via your employer’s workers compensation, as well as sick leave.

But as a subcontractor you lose many, or all, of these protections depending on a few factors.

So just like your employer would have had, as a subcontractor you need to take out your own insurance to protect yourself.

The two most common forms of subcontractor insurance are public liability and income protection.

Subcontractor Public Liability Insurance

This is by far the most commonly required form of business insurance for subcontractors.

Public liability insurance will respond in the event that you cause property damage or personal injury to a third party.

Public Liability Claim

Some subcontractors believe they will be covered under the insurance of the company hiring them, but this is almost always not the case.

In some cases there may be shared liability.  For example you might be a carpenter subcontracting to a builder.  There is an incident on site, and a judge finds that the builder was 60% liable because they told you to do something a certain way, and you are 40% liable because you went along with it knowing the issues.

The builder’s public liability insurance would cover their 60% of the claim and the carpenter’s public liability insurance would cover the remaining 40%.  If you didn’t have your own insurance, you would have to cover the 40% out of your own pocket.

Because of the serious financial risks involved, most company using subcontractors will require that all subbies have their own public liability insurance in place, and will not be able to work until they have provided a copy of their certificate of currency.

The cost of subcontractors public liability insurance can be very low depending on the type of work you are undertaking.

For a standard trade for example, you might be looking at just $400 a year for the minimum cover.  At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re working on a mine site or oil rig your public liability insurance cost will be in the thousands.

Subcontractor Income Protection

As we mentioned earlier, as a subcontractor you won’t have access to sick leave via an employer, and depending on your business structure you might not have access to worker’s compensation.

This leaves you in a very precarious position should you be unable to work due to an injury or illness.

Thankfully income protection insurance can look after subcontractors in this even.

Income protection can cover up to 75% of your income for a period of time whilst you’re unable to work due to illness or injury.

Some companies using subcontractors will require that all subcontractors hold their own income protection insurance, such are the risks involved.

Others forms of business insurance

Whilst public liability and income protection are the only two forms of business insurance that are typically required by a subcontractor, there are other forms of insurance worth considering.

If you are a tradie for example, as a subcontractor you’ll most likely be providing your own tools and equipment.

Your gear won’t be covered by the insurance of the company using your services, so you’ll need to insure your tools yourself.

For more information and advice about what forms of subcontractor insurance you may require, we strongly recommend speaking with a qualified insurance broker.

Licence Requirements

As a subcontractor you’ll be required to hold your own licence for certain occupations or business activities.

For example if you’re a Queensland electrician you’ll have special public liability insurance requirements.  Likewise for plumbers in Victoria who also have unique requirements.

Electrical Subcontractors Insurance

Even if the companies you are subcontracting to don’t ask to see your public liability insurance cover, keep in mind that you might still need it for your licence.

The government runs a service by the name of ABLIS which allows you to check if you need a licence for your business.  Follow the link to the Australian Business Licence and Information Service.

Using Subcontractors

What if it’s the other way around, and you’re the one using subcontractors?

In this case your own business insurance requirements don’t change greatly, but it is vital that you let your insurance company or broker know that you are using subbies.

Typically the insurer will want to know how much of your revenue is paid to subcontractors, as they see this as part of the overall risk of your business.

Rightly or wrongly, they typically consider that a company that uses a higher percentage of subcontractors will have a higher risk of claiming.

So you need to ensure you inform your insurer of your use of subcontractors, and it’s also vital to ensure that each of the subcontractors you are using also have their own insurance in place.

More Information

For more information about subcontractors insurance requirements, or to get a quote, we recommend speaking with a suitably qualified insurance broker.

Please click here to request a quote or to have a broker contact you.

Remember that as a subcontractor you are responsible for many things that weren’t your problem as an employee.  Don’t leave these risks uninsured as you could be badly exposed if anything goes wrong.

Best of luck with your subcontracting work and stay safe!