Public Liability Insurance

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bridgyguy

Active Member
15 April 2020
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Hi, my Son is a Freelance Videographer/DOP in the Film & Television industry in Victoria, and i am wondering if my Son needs to have Public Liability Insurance for his work.

All of his freelance work consists of being hired by Production Companies, Directors, and other professionals within the industry, and he invoices those people once he completes his work or contract.

He is not a registered business, but he does have an ABN for Invoicing purposes, so he would be deemed to be Self Employed, not the owner/operator of a registered business, therefore i would have assumed that he does not require any Public Liability Insurance, but must have his own Equipment Insurance, which he already has with a company called AON (https://business-insurance.aon.com.au/professions/entertainment/film-and-tv-professionals)

I would assume that if he is employed/contracted to carry out work for someone else, they would, or should be required to have Public Liability Insurance that covers those who are working for them against accidents etc.

Someone told me that because he is being employed as a Freelancer, he should be completing an employment contract of some type, and he should be making sure that they also have Public Liability Insurance in place, but i am not sure this information is actually correct.

My Question is, does my Son need to have Public Liability Insurance if he is employed by anther person or a business as a Freelancer.

I hope this makes sense, if not i can provide more info if needed.

Cheers
 

Rob Legat - SBPL

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Sounds like he is A legitimate independent contractor and not a sham employee, on the basis he supplies his own equipment and works for multiple businesses on an invoice based engagement. In that case: absolutely, definitely he should have his own public liability insurance. Even if there was a question whether or not he needed it, get it.

For the sake of what is likely to cost a few hundred dollars, versus the potential liability if an accident occurred, it makes sense. All it takes is someone to trip over a camera bag and injure themselves to potentially wind up with your son being bankrupted.
 

bridgyguy

Active Member
15 April 2020
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Hi, thanks for the advice, his Equipment insurance (called Backstage Insurance for film industry) cost him AU$455 for $25,000 cover unspecified items, anywhere in the world, with a basic $AU100 excess on any claim, to have Public Liability cover as well it will cost AU$430 for a standard $20million cover.

As i mentioned before, most, if not all of his work is freelance, working for production companies and/or other businesses, who rightfully should have (but not legally required) Public Liability insurance because they are operating a registered business and are employing other people like my Son to work for them under contract for a set period of time (1 day up to several weeks) and according to my Sons insurance company, under this scenario, anyone who injured themselves on set should be covered by the insurance of the production company, and it would be up to the production company to make sure they have a safe working environment for those who they employ on their set.

If my Son was to secure a contract to shoot content for someone else (tv commercial, music video, short film etc) and regardless of whether he needs to employ others or not to help him with the shoot, according to his insurance company he would need to have his own Public Liability insurance for himself, as it isn't just those who work for him that could be injured, if it was a shoot in an open public space then the risks become even greater as it could involve someone from the public being injured as well.

My Son was on a shoot one day and the production company had caterers on set to provide lunch, and prior to starting work my Son had to place an order with the caterer for his lunch, and on that order he had to notify them of any food allergies that he had (he is severely intolerant to peanuts and requires an Epipen) but when he ate his lunch, he got a severe reaction to something in the food, and he ended up in hospital with a massive reaction to peanuts, and as it turned out, the person who made his lunch must have used a utensil that was cross contaminated with peanut oil, rather than use a clean utensil to make his lunch, and the production company had to pay for his Ambulance and medical bills.

I called him last night to let him know that i am looking into the Public Liability insurance, but he told me that all the companies that he has worked for thus far have had insurance mentioned in his contract, and he never works for anyone who does not provide him with a signed contract or has no Liability insurance specified.

If he was on a shoot for a production company and someone busted his $10,000 URSA Mini Pro camera, or some other equipment that he has on set, then he would need to sort that out with his own insurance company, as he usually has to provide his own equipment on many of his jobs.

Having said all that, i do agree with you that for the sake of a small premium (AU$430 in this case) it would still be advisable to have this insurance for himself anyway, just in case.

Cheers
 

Rob Legat - SBPL

Lawyer
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It's all well and good for the company engaging him to say they're covered, or that their insurance covers him; but without actually seeing the policy, checking the exclusions and making sure that the insurer knows and agrees he's covered it's simply too risky.

He has no rights against the insurance company of the business that employs him should they decline to cover him.
 

Tim W

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28 April 2014
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McNuggets/ TLDR: Must he have it? No. Should he have it? Yes.

Proper answer:
He is not a registered business, but he does have an ABN for Invoicing purposes
On the assumption that he's not a sham contractor, then yes, he is a registered business.
He's got an ABN. That's his Australian Business Number, on the Australian Business Register.
Perhaps you mean that he's not a company?
...so he would be deemed to be Self Employed...
He sounds like a sole trader, yes.
...not the owner/operator of a registered business, therefore i would have assumed that he does not require any Public Liability Insurance, but must have his own Equipment Insurance, which he already has with a company called AON (https://business-insurance.aon.com.au/professions/entertainment/film-and-tv-professionals)
There's no law that says he must have PL.
However, it may be that his market (as a sole trader, he has customers, not employers) requires it.
Sometimes, prospective customers in The Industry make buying decisions based on whether or not the provider has their own PL.
This happens in other areas of The Industry - such when publicans require it of musicians, or sole trader sound techs, or sole trader makeup artists.
I would assume that if he is employed/contracted to carry out work for someone else, they would, or should be required to have Public Liability Insurance that covers those who are working for them against accidents etc.
Let's be clear about something - "Employed" and "contracted" are different legal concepts.
If he's employed (even casually, or for a fixed term), then yes, the employer is liable for the employee's acts and omissions.
But, if he's a genuine sole trader, then the duties and liabilities for his acts and omissions are all on him.
Someone told me that because he is being employed as a Freelancer, he should be completing an employment contract of some type, and he should be making sure that they also have Public Liability Insurance in place, but i am not sure this information is actually correct.
Been talking to law students again, have you?
Whoever told you that got it wrong.
For one thing, the term "freelance" has no legal meaning. It's just a laymen's term of convenience.
The correct term for his business type is most likely "sole trader".
My Question is, does my Son need to have Public Liability Insurance if he is employed by anther person or a business as a Freelancer.
As a matter of law, there's no such thing as being "employed as a freelancer". No matter tha terminology, he's either an employee, or he's an external provider.
(replace the word "cameraman" with the word "plumber", and you'll see what I mean.)

Your question actually is more like "Does he have a legal obligation to have PL?"
-> No, he doesn't. As a sole trader, he is free to assume as much personal risk as he chooses.
But doing so is very, very, poor business choice.
 

bridgyguy

Active Member
15 April 2020
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Why are you guys using the term "Sham contractor" for ???

I stated very clearly what he is and what he does, he only has an ABN so i gather you would call him a "Sole Trader" and not a registered company with a business name.

The term "Freelance" is very widely used, especially in the film industry, and it is used to describe ones "employment" status, if i can use that word, so when my Son referes to himself as being a Freelance Videographer or DOP, he simply means that he makes himself available to carry out specific work for other people or businesses within the Film and TV industry, but he, nor others in the Film Industry use the terms Contractor or Self Employed, or whatever else you might like to call it, even though technically those may well be the correct terminology, the term "Freelance" is the most widely used term, so my Son simply calls himself a Freelance (free agent) Videographer or DOP.

As for a Plumber, you don't hear anyone say that they are a Freelance Plumber, i believe Plumbing Contractor would be the correct terminology, given that i was a Builder most of my adult life, and i always refered to myself as be a Self Employed Builder or a Building Contractor.

Been talking to law students again, have you? No, i have never spoken to any Law Students, but i notice that some of you experts don't seem to give much credit to Law Students, given that you would have been a Student of Law at one point in time ???

Whoever told you that got it wrong.
ok i was only mentioning things that other have told me, that is why i came here to ask, but it really hit me just now just how curt some of the responses in here have been (as well as in other Topics) you guys are supposed to be the experts, we come here to ask questions, and i certainly feel that the responses are made with a harsh tone in your voices.

Anyway, thanks for your input, probably best that we seek legal advice from a local Lawyer in a face to face conversation.

Cheers.
 

Tim W

Lawyer
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28 April 2014
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bridgyguy said:
Why are you guys using the term "Sham contractor" for ???
Because sham contracting is one of the ways
in which workers (especially young, or early-career, workers)
in The Industry are exploited.*

Any sensible discussion of "freelancing" as a purported employment arrangement
needs to consider the possibility that the worker is being exploited in a sham contracting arrangement,
even if only to rule that possibility out.

For the benefit of those who read this later,
there is information about sham contracting here and here and here.

Tim W said:
Been talking to law students again, have you?
To which @bridgyguy replied
No, i have never spoken to any Law Students...
And yet here, you have previously said that you have done exactly that.
Which is why I asked.

I'm familiar with the term freelance. And the context in which it's used here.
That's how I know that while it has a vernacular meaning,
and is, as you say, a traditional term in the industry, it is not a legal term.

As it happens, a good part of my own private practice
involves clients who work in Film/ TV/ Theatre/ Music/ Fashion/ Art
(hence my using the term, "The Industry").

bridgyguy said:
...probably best that we seek legal advice from a local Lawyer in a face to face conversation.
It is.
And nobody here minds if you do.

-------------------------------------------
* Sham contracting happens in other industries too, like IT, building and construction, transport, security, and cleaning.