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One in four businesses not covered if key person dies

1.5 million businesses could be forced to shut down

More than one in four (26%) small businesses in the UK would have to close immediately if a key person died or became critically ill, a poll shows.

Legal & General’s “State of Nation’s SMEs” report found that 15% of businesses which had already suffered such an event had closed down.

The figures suggest that up 1.5 million SMEs could be at risk of having to shut down, should the worst happen, while a further 26% of companies in the survey said they would cease trading within a year.

L&G’s survey, which was first launched in 2009 comes following a recent Government paper which shows that SMEs account for more than 99% of Britain’s 5.7 million private sector businesses and they employ over 16 million people. The research suggests that up to nearly three million of these companies could be at risk of closing within a year of losing a key person. It also means that around 4.3 million employees have little or no protection against losing their jobs if their employer suffered from a critical event, L&G said.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of the businesses Legal & General surveyed said they had more than one key person and SMEs were aware of the impact their loss could have on the firm’s operations.

Across the more than 700 small companies surveyed, losing a key person was ranked as the number one concern. Of those SMEs which had already suffered from such an event, nearly a third (30%) said that a business owner or important employee dying or becoming critically ill had impacted their profits. Almost one in five (19%) said it had lost them the confidence of their customers.

However, though these businesses were aware of the potential effects of losing a key employee, 70% said that they had either never considered, or did not understand the need for business protection. In fact, just under half (48%) of those surveyed said they did not have cover in place for any of the key risks of key person, debt or share protection.

Richard Kateley (pictured), head of intermediary development at Legal & General, said: “Small and medium businesses are essential to Britain’s economy; they employ millions of people across the UK and make up more than 99% of the private sector. Yet our research shows that many of these companies could be a risk of closing their doors if a key person in their business died or became critically ill – more than a quarter would even have to cease trading immediately.

“SMEs are acutely aware of the risk losing someone important to their business could have, but while many companies will insure their computer systems or buildings, they often don’t think about protecting their most important assets – their people. Without the relevant business protection, the impact of losing a key employee or business owner could threaten the ambitions and hard work of SMEs up and down the country.”

L&G said that two-thirds of small business owners (63%) it polled said they would be happy to be contacted by an adviser about business protection insurance.