Everyone who works with horses accept that they can be dangerous and that accidents do occur, but few people take action to ensure they are financially protect should an unfortunate incident occur.
“The worst rider injuries tend to involve kicks to the head and the most common instances are while loading or lungeing when not wearing a hat,” says Alison Lee, an associate solicitor in the personal injury team at Taylor Vinters in Cambridge.
“Another cause of serious injury is horses rearing up and falling on the rider or the rider landing on a hard surface — this usually involves spinal or pelvic injuries.
“In a maximum severity personal injury case — meaning that the injured party is no longer able to work or drive — the award might be £150,000 to £200,000 for the injury, plus a care package and loss of earnings as high as seven figures.”
Alison has dealt with many other types of accident. She says that falls and horses being hit by cars are among the most common.
“There are precautions you can take to avoid most of these serious incidents. They won’t really dent your bank balance, and the consequences of not doing them can be massive. Something as simple as wearing fluorescent clothing at dawn and dusk could save your life,” she adds.
Employers’ liability insurance will cover any personal injury claim made by an employee, but why would anyone want to risk losing good staff or good horses to preventable accidents? If you’re not happy with health and safety measures where you work, talk to your employer and see what can be done. Perhaps your boss will buy you some fluorescent clothing or a back protector? It could make all the difference if you wear your protective clothing and are honest about your level of experience.
Many grooms don’t think they can afford income protection insurance, but Peter Ellam, independent financial adviser and founder of Ellam Financial, says this vital cover is a worthwhile expense.
“Anyone in this profession is at a higher risk of losing their livelihood than someone who’s office-bound. We feel that for anyone, one of the most important insurance plans is to protect one’s income in the event of long-term illness or injury,” he explains.
So how much would it cost for a groom earning £200 a week after tax?
“The premium would be in the region of £27 per month, which will provide £5,712 a year — 55% of salary paid tax-free.”
This would be effective to a retirement age of 60 and benefits are paid after a 13-week waiting period. An office worker would pay around £16 per month for identical cover.
For an annual £210 fee, South Essex Insurance Brokers Ltd would provide personal accident cover to the same groom for temporary injury causing loss of earnings of £200 per week. There would be a waiting period of 14 days and it could be paid for up to 104 weeks.
Peter Ellam’s advice to grooms is to take out an income protection plan and “invest any remaining spare cash in a savings plan aimed at house purchase when you no longer have free accommodation”.
Statutory sick pay
Rachel Flynn, a partner specialising in equestrian and employment issues at Taylor Vinters, says that every qualifying employee is entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) for 28 weeks, which is set at £68.20 per week, although individual employers may provide a more generous package via a contract.
You may not think you have the right to sick pay, especially if you have no written contract, but Rachel says: “If a groom is an employee without a written contract, they are still an employee and have all the normal statutory rights.”
It also doesn’t matter if the injury or illness has been contracted at work or not — sick pay is the same.
To receive SSP you must:
- Be aged between 16 and 65
- Be sick for at least four days in a row (including weekends and bank holidays)
- Earn — before tax and NI — an average of £79 per week
Join Horse & Hound’s NAGS
Membership of the National Association of Grooms and Students (NAGS) is free to all bona fide grooms and students. NAGS is sponsored by training provider KEITS, which offers Modern Apprenticeships, for those aged 16-25, as well as work-based training in equine, animal care and agricultural businesses.
Benefits of being a NAGS member include: Horse & Hound subscription at £1 per copy, £3 discount voucher on a sack of Blue Chip Dynamic, 10% discount on Splash Equestrian equipment and clothing, no P&P charges from Equestrian Vision mail order and eligibility for NAGS-only competitions and offers.
If you are interested in becoming a member, write to: NAGS, Room 2018, Kings Reach Tower, Stamford Street, London SE1 9LS (tel: 020 7261 6993), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or click here to download an application form in PDF format.
And remember, the club is open to all students, not just those studying for an equine qualification.