The rule of thumb for most outside user groups, clubs and classes on church premises is that they need to have their own public liability (PL) insurance.
Baptist Insurance strongly advises that churches check that outsider users such as clubs and playgroups have the necessary insurance of their own. This is an area where churches often have queries and there seems to be quite a bit of confusion. Some trustees think the church’s own insurance will cover groups; others ask their users if they have insurance but don’t see the documentation.
Our major concern is that if a hirer or their contractor has no PL insurance, a church could be involved in a potential legal action by association for a claim where they have no responsibility for or control over the actions of the hirer. Key advice is always to confirm that anyone hiring the premises regularly has PL cover and that one-off hirers do the same with contractors.”
As a warning of the consequences of what could happen, take the example of a hospital which hired a bouncy castle for a fun day: it found itself liable when a child was injured and an insurance claim was made. It emerged that the castle’s operators did not have any public liability cover so the hospital itself was found to be liable for the money, a scenario that could just as easily apply to a church.
Any group that is formal in nature – meets regularly, has an organiser or a committee or its users pay fees – must have public liability insurance of its own that will cover damage to the church’s property and injury to its members or users.
Generally, there are three different types of hirer and a different PL position applies to each:
• Regular volunteer or commercial users:
Formally constituted organisations, such as the Women’s Institute, have their own PL cover in force. Anyone who operates commercially, for example a yoga teacher should have their own PL cover to carry out their business.
• Private individuals using premises no more than three times a year:
There is limited cover under the Baptist Insurance ‘indemnity to private hirers’ extension. This would cover, for example, someone hiring premises for a party. However, it is important that it is made clear, in writing, to the hirer that it is their responsibility to ascertain that any contractor they bring in, such as a caterer or entertainer, has their own PL cover.
• Other users – typically locally organised groups, such as a camera club, hiring premises for regular meetings:
such users are not covered by the above policy extension and Baptist Insurance strongly advises that they are asked to purchase their own PL cover, which is available at affordable annual premiums. Allowing such groups to hire without PL cover raises the risk of exposing the church to unnecessary cost if premises are damaged or to a potential legal action for negligence should their activities lead to an accident where someone is injured.
It is very important that a church actually checks that an outside user does have cover – the church needs to see the insurance certificate itself. Baptist Insurance recommends that churches include wording in their letting agreements to stipulate that outside users groups must have their own insurance and that a copy of the insurance certificate will need to be seen.
Also, against the backdrop of high levels of media coverage of abuse cases, it is prudent for churches letting their facilities to playgroups or charities ask to see a copy of that group’s safeguarding policy.
For more information on the insurance issues of renting your church or church hall to outside users, contact Baptist Insurance on 0845 070 2223.