Working from home has certain distractions, but insuring essential equipment need not be one of them, say the experts. Picture: 123rf.com
Working from home has certain distractions, but insuring essential equipment need not be one of them, say the experts. Picture: 123rf.com

If home is your new workplace - even temporarily - and you're using expensive portable devices to do your job, make sure you have adequate insurance. The same applies if you have a side hustle.

Many employees who use laptops that are owned by their employers don't realise that these either aren't insured or aren't covered for use outside the office. In the event of a loss, your employer can hold you liable if you are deemed to have been negligent.

And many self-employed people or employees running a side hustle have expensive equipment that isn't insured because of the high cost of business insurance.

Ernest North, a co-founder of Naked Insurance, says the insurance industry needs to evolve to cater for the growing numbers of people working from home.

Owing to changes in the way we work, the "once thick" line between personal and business insurance is starting to blur, he says.

Marnus van Heerden, co-founder of insurtech company Pineapple, concurs. "It's going to be very interesting to see how traditional insurers define what's personal and what's commercial in cases where you've been using your car sometimes [to make money on the side]. Is it a business vehicle or a private vehicle?"

And what if you use your camera for freelance photography? If the camera isn't owned by a business, is it covered? "I think insurers will have to look at definitions in their policies. If the policy says you aren't allowed to use your personal camera for commercial use, you might not be covered."

North says most home insurance products won't cover you if your camera is stolen while you're photographing a function for work, or if your company-owned laptop is destroyed in a house fire.

He says business insurance for your side hustle or a small business that you run from home is generally overkill and this is where single-item insurance products from insurtech companies come into their own.

"For any specialised equipment that needs to be insured for business use, you can buy single-items cover online. You can, for example, get a quote in seconds on the Naked app and be insured in a few minutes."

Van Heerden says that not all traditional insurers allow you to insure single items. "You have to have a household contents policy to attach the item to." In the past, it was the same with motor vehicle cover, and that changed. "We see the same evolution with items cover and have the data to price an individual item accurately," Van Heerden says.

Wynand van Vuuren, the head of customer experience of King Price, says the functionality to cover single items is available on the King Price app.

He says grey areas can come in when you don't disclose that the item you're covering will be used for business purposes.

"My laptop is company property, insured by the company. If it was my own, I'd have to insure it as an all-risks item [if I wanted to use it outside the house]. The 'all risks' definition in your policy is very important," Van Vuuren says.

Under your household contents insurance, cover is limited to certain causes of losses or "perils", he says. In other words, if there's a loss, cover is determined by what caused the loss or damage. Furthermore, cover is limited to incidents that happen in the house, be it a burglary or a fire.

But if you have expensive portable items that you take out of the house, you need to specify them under all risks so that they are covered for events outside the home.

King Price will give you all-risks cover on your laptop even if it is used for business purposes, as long as it belongs to you and not your employer.

Other insurers might limit the all-risks cover to when you're using the laptop for private purposes and not for business purposes, he says. If they do give you cover for business use, it would be at a higher premium.

North says many people who run a small business have a couple of assets that are critical to doing that business. But you need not buy a business policy to cover them, he says. "You can insure those items on a standalone basis. Single-item cover covers you when you're using these items for business. If you take the camera to a shoot, it's covered off site."

Business insurance policies aren't designed for a small freelancer, he says. "It's for the dentist who owns a practice and includes a bunch of benefits like liability cover. It's more comprehensive. We don't offer it because we think the butcher and dentist should speak to a broker. But for a wedding photographer to buy a business policy is overkill."

Van Vuuren says about half the short-term insured market is directly insured, indicating consumer understanding of and confidence in insuring directly with insurers.

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