Farming Insights: A Question of Vicarious Liability
Vicarious Liability is something that can affect all employers, but what exactly does it mean? Below, I'll look at how it affects the agriculture industry.
Many farming businesses will use temporary labour or contractors for seasonal jobs or at their busiest time of year. It is often assumed that the incoming business or individual will carry their own Public (Third-party) Liability Insurance, but it is important to recognise when this may or may not be the case.
When employing an expert for a specific task and they are providing their own equipment, then it would be usual to expect the contractor to provide insurance cover for their employees. An example of this would be a farmer employing a contractor to provide spraying or cropping services.
If such an arrangement continues for an extended period, resulting in the contractor located solely at this one business and taking instruction from the farmer, then the farmers’ insurance would have to provide cover in the event of an incident, either instead of, or in conjunction with the contractor’s own liability cover.
The situation can get even more complicated when a farmer employs a temporary worker. The farmer will be responsible if the temporary employee gets injured in the course of their work. In a straight-forward scenario, this gets covered by the client’s Employers Liability cover. However, you also need to consider the implications if it were another member of staff that is passing on the job specification. It does not require direct instruction from the farmer to the worker, for the farmer to be responsible in the event of an incident.
This known in legal terms as Vicarious Liability. If the owner is not the direct manager of the staff member, they can still be found to be negligent and thus liable for any injury to a person carrying out their instructions. This terminology is frequently associated with the construction industry and corporate manslaughter but equally applies to all industries where there are employees. Remember with liability claims, the onus is always on the client to disprove what happened, not on the injured part to prove.
As a result, all farmers need to be aware of their potential exposure when taking on temporary staff or contractors. They need to make sure that, not only is the correct level of cover in place, but also that risk management and risk assessment is conducted. Ensuring the appropriate documentation is collected, prior to instructions. It's only by having a formal record of training and risk management that the farmer can provide tangible proof he has taken all appropriate protection for his staff. That's whether they are full time, part-time, permanent, seasonal, PAYE or contractor.
If you are not sure if you have the right systems and insurance cover in place, please get in touch. We're always happy to discuss your insurance needs.
By Jean Arnott-Glennie, Rural Business Executive