The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.

Obtaining UK insurance coverage for International Companies

Obtaining UK insurance coverage can be difficult for businesses based overseas for a variety of reasons. Legal and cultural expectations change from one territory to the next, and each insurer’s stance on international business will vary, with brokers and agents setting their own restrictions on who they will and won’t do business with.

So if you need UK-based business insurance what can you do? Our in-depth guide explores a range of possibilities for different requirements in the hopes that we can help you obtain the coverage you need.

Tables of Contents

Why do you need a UK insurance policy?

Employers’ Liability

The most common reasons for requiring UK insurance policies tend to revolve around the UK legal requirement that any business employing workers within the UK must have a minimum level of employers’ liability insurance in place, typically £5 million.

This requirement is intended to protect any employees based in the UK in the event that they are injured whilst working for your business. This requirement also applies to any non-UK employee of yours, if they spend more than 14 days continuously in Great Britain. Offshore installations are also included as being ‘within Great Britain’ however the limit is reduced to 7 days for employees not usually based in the UK.

Property Insurance

If you have purchased office or domestic premises within the UK, or you provide your workers with equipment to help them carry out their work, you may be required to obtain suitable insurance as a condition of your mortgage or tenancy agreements, or even as a condition of the terms of any equipment leases you agree to.

Usually the policy you are required to purchase will protect the interests of UK-based third parties (e.g. the mortgage or leasing company) in the event that your buildings or equipment are damaged. The interested parties will usually make it clear to you that you are expected to obtain suitable insurance in each case.

Contractual obligations

Outside of property and equipment, it is also common for business partners, clients or suppliers to require minimum insurance coverage as a condition of their contracts with you. These measures serve to protect the interests of both businesses, ensuring that covered losses can be claimed for and recovered.

The following policies are commonly included in contractual terms and conditions, often with a minimum acceptable level stated:

  • Professional Indemnity – sometimes called ‘PII’, errors and omissions and/or professional liability insurance
  • Public Liability – Also known as third party liability and general liability insurance
  • Employers’ Liability - With a minimum required standard of cover and £5 million minimum allowed cover limit, set by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Why is it hard for international businesses to get UK insurance?

There are many reasons why it can be difficult to obtain UK insurance coverage when your company is based outside of the UK, however here are the main sticking points we have encountered:

UK Address

Most UK-based insurers require for you to provide a UK address in order for them to produce a quotation. This is due to a couple of factors:

  • Registration requirements In order to register as a UK business with companies house it is necessary to have a UK address. Insurers can use this as a ‘filter’ to ensure they are only providing cover to businesses with a genuine need for UK-specific coverage, i.e. a UK-registered business. Read our employers’ liability article for more details on whether you need to register as a UK business in order to hire UK workers.
  • Computer system The vast majority of UK-purchased insurance policies are for UK domestic businesses and clients, so many insurer, agency and broker’s systems are only configured to accept UK addresses. In theory these insurers could provide appropriate cover, but the benefit of providing policies for a comparatively few international clients is outweighed by the high cost of modifying their computer systems and reporting processes.
  • Equipment storage/Premises location It seems obvious but whenever a physical property is insured it is necessary to have that property’s address recorded. The same goes for any equipment, even if it is portable in nature; insurers will run checks on the area it is being used in to determine crime, flood and other risk factors when providing cover.

Contract jurisdictions

Certain legal jurisdictions are considered higher risk than others from the perspective of the UK insurance market—they require a UK insurer defending claims to obtain local legal representation (usually at a very high cost), but may also originate from areas with a perceived higher level of bureaucracy, corruption or punitive measures for defendants.

For this reason if your main business is situated internationally and your contracts are written to local law rather than UK legal you will find it difficult to obtain suitable cover for your UK companies/subsidiaries, as the perceived risk to insurers is greater, especially if your UK branch/subsidiary does a lot of international business.

Income splits

Most insurers require a declaration of where any UK-based company’s income is derived, and online systems will often throw out a quote request if you break a preconfigured threshold. In these cases it’s best to contact providers directly to discuss your requirements.

Even for a UK-based business, having the majority of your income derive from international sources makes it difficult to obtain an insurance policy from many insurers and comparison sites, which tend to prefer to deal with more ‘straightforward’ risks. If this applies to you, you will likely find better results approaching a broker due to their specialism in complex applications.

Insurer specialism

Several mainstream insurers prefer to do business domestically and will decline to quote for any international risks whatsoever, citing the cost of providing such policies as greater than the benefit to the insurer. AXA and Aviva both have international presence so may be best suited to offer terms in this case. In other cases, UK-based insurers will cover international risks but only through specialist broker schemes or via their Lloyds of London underwriting services, which again can only be accessed through brokers and agents.

Brexit

Prior to Brexit the UK had arrangements in place which made it easier to provide insurance for businesses operating out of the EU, allowing for UK insurers to quote EU business or make use of EU insurers to quote UK and international business.

Since Brexit the nature of these arrangements has had to change to reflect the new relationship between the UK and the EU. The side-effect of this is that some UK insurers, brokers and agents have had to limit or halt their provision of certain covers, either due to the increased difficulty of providing them, or until their own processes and systems can be amended to continue to provide them as before.

This will change on a case-by-case basis depending on the insurer and your requirements, and as time passes it is likely that more insurers will begin to or resume offering policies to overseas entities.

How can you give yourself the best chance of obtaining UK cover?

So with all of the above pitfalls for international businesses to fall into, how can you give yourself the best chance of obtaining quotes for your business? Whilst every case will vary we have identified some key areas in which you can make things easier for yourself:

Make sure you actually need UK cover

If you are a parent company operating from outside of the UK, first determine if any form of UK cover is actually needed:

  • Establish if you require employers liability by checking the UK Health and Safety Executive guidelines.
  • Check your contracts to see if they state that your insurance must be UK specific, and check if this can be amended to meet the same intent whilst allowing greater flexibility in sourcing your policy (e.g. allowing for EU or international insurance providers to provide a policy which does the same job).
  • Speak with your current insurer to see if appropriate coverage can be included with or added to your existing policy. If not, can they put you in touch with sister companies that can meet your needs.

Understand the reasons why you need the coverage

Whilst you may think this is straightforward, you’ll likely be speaking with UK insurer and broker representatives who are much more well-versed in the UK insurance market than you or your clients. By explaining the reasoning behind your application for one cover or another you can give these professionals more information and help them to suggest compromises or alternatives which will help you to obtain a policy.

It’s also very important that you understand the mechanisms which run your business—you will need to describe the legal and financial relationships between all business entities requiring cover, so understanding how your business functions is crucial.

Form a UK business

For risk-related and purely bureaucratic reasons, it’s much easier to obtain a UK insurance policy if you have a UK business registered to a UK address. This will get you through the door of most computerised quoting systems and allow you to bypass a lot of wasted phone calls and emails. Once you are speaking with insurers you can tailor any quotes you receive to meet your business needs.

If you are in doubt as to how to do this we recommend speaking to a qualified UK accountancy firm with overseas experience for advice on how to structure your business and what rules to follow.

Be suspicious if things are too easy

Online quoting systems and aggregators which compare multiple quotes may look tempting, but they make assumptions about the people using them—specifically that users are UK-based and have UK-jurisdictional contracts.

This means you should treat any quick and easy quote with some suspicion, and always assume it doesn’t adequately cover your business until you have spoken with the issuing insurer or brokerage and confirmed that your unique circumstances are tailored for. This might mean that some quotes are withdrawn, but it’s better that this happen at the early stages than at the point of a claim.

Make sure you are approaching the right source for your requirements.

A common mistake made by international businesses looking for UK insurance cover is to behave like a domestic business and try comparison sites, direct insurers and local brokers. Most of these are targeted at smaller national businesses and will filter out your request (or provide unsuitable cover as in the previous example). Our top options for overseas businesses looking to obtain UK insurance are as follows:

Speak with Embassies and consulates

Contact your country’s embassy or consulate located in the UK and request assistance in obtaining suitable coverage. Often embassies and consulates will have dealt with requests like this in the past, and some even form relationships with local brokers who cater to exactly this kind of request.

Speak with other businesses

If you know of or have relationships with other businesses operating in a similar manner to your own, it can be worth requesting a referral to their insurance provider for similar policies. Some insurers will incentivise their customers for referrals of this nature with discounts or bonuses.

Approach a local branch of an international insurer

The following insurers are some of the largest in the world, with UK offices. Check to see if they have offices in your country (or even based on your continent:

  • AXA
  • Allianz
  • Aviva
  • Legal & General
  • Prudential
If you can contact these insurers at their local offices they may be able to arrange a policy which meets the needs of your company in the UK, or even covers your business in its entirety including your UK requirements.

Approach a local branch of an international brokerage

Check to see if any of these insurance brokers have offices in your country, and contact them for quotations. As the largest global insurance brokers, these companies will have links to insurance companies which are not available to the general public.

We have also spoken directly with Towergate, who are a UK-based broker that say they can handle international business. Consider contacting their international team to discuss your requirements.

As professionals with experience in providing bespoke policies to complex multinational businesses, large insurance brokers are often able to cater to a wide range of unusual or complex requirements, and with offices all over the world they are likely to be able to marry up non-UK policies with UK compliant ones to ensure you are properly covered.

Summary and final thoughts

Whether your business is stationed overseas looking to meet contractual obligations or setting up in the UK and trying to comply with employment law, obtaining suitable UK cover can be a nightmare. Be prepared to spend several weeks ensuring that your policy meets your needs and the legal requirements of both the UK and your local jurisdictions. We hope that the information included in this article is of use to you and we welcome your feedback.

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The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.