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Insurance Essentials for Self Employed Chefs

Rhino Trade Insurance 30 June 2024

Working in professional kitchens is like a whole other dimension when compared with most jobs. Think of the hours that your average chef puts in – with 60-80 hour weeks considered the norm in most circles. 

And consider the pressure you’re under. When lunch or dinner service starts, everything must be ready. If Jerusalem artichokes are on the menu with a wilted spinach salad, then you’re the one who has to come in early to wash and cut the pile of artichokes and de-stalk mountains of spinach.

But think of the perks, too. You get to work with food – a passion many chefs have from a young age. You’ll also encounter some of the most interesting people you’ll meet in your life while working in restaurant kitchens, and earn a decent living while you’re at it.

Plus, if you’ve taken the plunge and gone self-employed, you can experience amazing variety in what you do. One day you could be slapping a piece of prime Angus burger down on a grill at a festival, and the following week tweezering edible flowers next to a gold leaf dessert in a Michelin-starred place. You could even end up tossing the salads of celebrities and royals – strictly confidentially of course!

Plus, if you make a name for yourself and even get an award or two under your belt, then the self-employed path starts getting lucrative, too.

The Recipe for Risk: Unique Challenges for Self-Employed Chefs 

Working as a self-employed chef also comes with certain risks that are unique to your trade that you need to protect yourself from. No matter how much you feel part of a team on a job, if something happens (like an accident in the kitchen), you’ll be on your own in terms of liability. This is why you need chef liability coverage.

Here are a few of the key specific risks faced by self-employed chefs. 

  • Kitchen accidents

Kitchens are dangerous places, filled with sharp and heavy objects. Not only this, but slip and trip hazards are a-plenty. A dropped knife, a pan spitting hot oil or a spillage of beurre blanc that someone didn’t see until it was too late. Yes, the scope for accidents and harm is high, regardless of how closely you follow the health and safety regulations. And if someone gets hurt around your work space, as a self-employed chef, you’ll almost certainly take the blame.

  • Foodborne illness

Campylobacter, salmonella and clostridium perfringens. Mmm! No, this isn’t a fancy new concept menu; these are just some of the nasty foodborne bacteria that can make their way into your cooking and cause your customers to become ill. You’ll probably recognise these from your Food Hygiene and Safety training and know all about how to prevent them, but just like with a dropped knife, accidents can happen. If you end up making someone sick from your cooking, once again, the buck stops with you.

  • Property damage

Working in a professional kitchen brings with it the scope to cause damage. When you’re working in various different kitchens, it can be a little difficult to learn the ropes in each new environment. Smashing a stack of side plates, accidentally yanking the stubborn freezer door off its hinges, breaking the blow torch or throwing some fine silverware in the industrial dishwasher. Each little incident may give rise to a claim against you for the damages.

  • Personal injuries

As we mentioned, kitchens can be dangerous places to be! A quick scan of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website uncovers this gruesome story of a commis chef in the UK who lost the skin on one arm in a deep fryer. Warning: it includes images not for the faint-hearted. It’s not just boiling oil you need to worry about, you face a litany of knives, heavy cookware, graters, slicers, ovens, blow-torches and wet floors every day. 

In the self-employed game, time off work recovering from an injury means you’re not making any money. Take the unfortunate commis chef in the case above – he was off work for almost five months to recover.

  • Breach of contract

If you fail to fulfil certain terms of your contract, then as a self-employed chef, you’re at risk of being sued. This could be for a number of reasons – maybe it was something totally unavoidable and out of your control. Whatever the reason, those who hired you are in a position to make a claim against you if you can’t fulfil your contract.  

  • Professional negligence claims

Imagine you’ve been hired to cater for an important event. Your souffles collapse, your cream sauce splits and your meat is over-salted. The client feels you’ve cost them money through your professional mistake, and they’re chasing you down for compensation. This is an example of an accusation of professional negligence that you’d have to defend yourself against, or agree on a potentially costly settlement.

Essential Insurance Ingredients for Culinary Professionals

So, we’ve relished going over some of the risks professional chefs face which can impact you financially. Now it’s time to talk about how you can protect yourself against the financial fallout of things going wrong on your next job. Enter Self-Employed Chefs Insurance. It’s absolutely essential that you protect yourself against financial liability for the risks you face with culinary insurance. Don’t stress – insurance for trades is what we do here at Rhino, so you’re in good hands.

Here are the key types of insurance that are important for self-employed chefs. Handily, they can all be added to your Chefs Insurance bundle through Rhino Trade Insurance.

If you spill a vat of hot soup down a customer’s back, cause an outbreak of norovirus or break a few kitchen floor tiles by dropping a cast iron griddle pan, saying ‘sorry’ won’t be enough. Whoever (or whatever) you cause harm to, there will be damages to pay to make it right. This is where Public Liability Insurance comes in for self-employed chefs. When you’re covered by this policy, you won’t need to pay the cost of damages, compensation or any associated legal costs yourself – these will be borne by your insurer. 

Public Liability Insurance for chefs isn’t really optional, as you’ll find that every single job offer will come on the condition that you have Public Liability Insurance in place. Check contracts carefully as most will stipulate a minimum amount of coverage, too (e.g., £100,000). 

Even the top culinary artists make professional mistakes. These mistakes can lead to big claims for compensation landing on your doorstep. So whether you’ve delivered a sub-par service, breached a contract or somehow caused a customer to lose money, you’ll need a robust Professional Indemnity Insurance policy in your chef’s kit to protect you from financial liability.

Professional Indemnity Insurance can safeguard chefs against claims of negligence or breach of contract, so it’s not one to leave out of your Chefs Insurance bundle.

Where would you be without your trusty knife set? Can you imagine rolling up to a job without it, or trying to cook without your grater, vegetable peeler or set of chefs whites? Theft, loss or damage of your essential chef’s tools would really scupper your ability to deliver work (and put you at risk of that breach of contract we mentioned earlier). Unless you fancy paying out of pocket for stolen, lost or damaged tools, then adding Tools Insurance to your Chefs Insurance bundle with Rhino is the smart thing to do. Some chefs we spoke to had knife sets alone worth £1,000, so insuring them is a bit of a no-brainer.

If you’re a self-employed chef who works strictly alone, then you don’t need Employer’s Liability Insurance. However, if you’re one of the self-employed chefs who has brought in someone else (or several people) to work under you, you need Employer’s Liability Insurance by law in the UK. Yes, even if the person is an apprentice, and even if they only work for you occasionally. Why do you need this policy? Well, it’s in case your staff come to harm as a result of working for you. This essential policy doesn’t just benefit your employees, however. It also protects you financially, as it means you won’t have to dip into your own pockets if a payout is due.

As a self-employed chef, there’s no employer’s sick pay policy to keep you ticking over should you need time off work to recover from an injury. Personal Accident Insurance is an important policy for self-employed chefs as it will ensure you can meet your costs of living should you need a bit of time off. Without making an income from your cheffing work, the bills and financial liabilities can quickly pile up. A good Personal Accident policy will mean you can sleep well at night, knowing that your income is secure (whether you had the accident in the kitchen or not). 

  • The Need for Comprehensive Coverage

Whether you’re cooking in restaurant kitchens, food trucks, festivals, private homes or private jets – you NEED Chefs Insurance. 

Here are three great reasons why:

#1 Your Reputation Depends On It

As a self-employed professional chef, your reputation is everything. It can truly make or break your career. In the age of social media and online reviews, word-of-mouth and industry chit-chat will follow you everywhere, wherever you choose to lay your chef’s hat.

Things like turning up on time, bringing your own knife roll and being pleasant to work with are just the basics of securing yourself a good reputation. Beyond these basics, you’ll also need to be covered by robust insurance to gain any traction in this game. 

#2 Your Clients Will Demand It

You will find that most cheffing contracts have an insurance requirement as standard. Clients won’t take any self-employed chef seriously if they don’t have at least Public Liability Insurance in place, as going uninsured shows you aren’t interested in putting things right promptly should something go wrong. And if you’re an employer, you’ll need Employer’s Liability Insurance by law, otherwise you’ll have HMRC after you with a £2,500 daily fine.

#3 You Can’t Afford Not To

Compensation claims for things like kitchen accidents, professional negligence and lost tools can cost self-employed chefs in the UK a fortune. It’s not financially sustainable to pay for claims, legal fees and replacing your equipment out of your own pocket. A small sum every month in insurance premiums is a fantastic investment for your business, as it shields you from a wide range of unexpected costs.

Selecting the Perfect Policy: Tips for Self-Employed Chefs

Chefs Insurance from Rhino Trade Insurance is built around the essential policy that all self-employed chefs need, Public Liability Insurance. From there, you can build a personalised bundle of coverage which only includes the policies you need to protect yourself from liability. Have an apprentice or staff and need to add on Employer’s Liability Insurance? No problem. Have recently invested in a few grand’s worth of chef’s tools and equipment? Don’t worry, our Tool Insurance cover can be added in a click, with indemnity limits of up to £10,000. Fancy really making your business watertight with the addition of Legal Expenses Insurance to finance a legal defence should you need it? Be our guest – you can add this policy and more at a low cost.

With Rhino’s bespoke insurance solution, you can tailor the coverage to suit your individual business, so you won’t end up paying for policies or sky-high cover limits if you don’t need them.

When building your Chefs Insurance policy bundle, you should consider the size of your business (just you? A few staff?), your turnover, the types of environments you work in and the scope of your duties (do you flambé table-side, for instance?). Talking to us at Rhino is a great place to start, or try our instant quote generator if you’d rather not chat with us directly.

Rhino Trade Insurance: Your Partner in Culinary Coverage

Rhino Trade Insurance are the time-served experts in the trade insurance business. We are a customer favourite, with thousands of five-star reviews racking up on TrustPilot as we speak. Rhino offer customised solutions for chefs and self-employed caterers, with buildable coverage based on your specific business needs. With must-have Public Liability Insurance at the core of all our policies, you can then build your coverage to suit your unique business.

Don’t expose yourself to liability. Talk to Rhino today about your Chefs Insurance on 0116 243 7904.

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